To the Radical Political Abolitionists:
WE are few - but we are not, therefore, to cease from our work. Work for a good cause, be that cause popular or unpopular, must be work to the end.
Our undertaking, as Radical Political Abolitionists, is to remove slavery from the national territories by means of our national political power, and to remove it from the States also, by means of the same power, whenever the States shall themselves refuse to remove it. For the success of this undertaking, we must depend, under God, upon ourselves. Of all the political parties, there is but one to give us countenance - and that one is, in point of numbers, quite insignificant.
The Whig and Democratic and Know-Nothing parties are each made up of slaveholders, as well as non-slaveholders; and hence, the condition of their continued existence is, that they shall not attack slavery. Members there are, of each of these parties, who are opposed to slavery. But for any one of these parties to assail slavery would be to dissolve itself. The Free-Soil or Independent Democratic party is, we cheerfully admit, an anti-slavery party. Nevertheless, it denies the right of the Federal Government to touch slavery in the States; and, sad to say, it admits the constitutional authority of every slaveholder to claim every State Government for his slave-catcher. The American Anti-Slavery Society, or Garrison Party, like ourselves, labors, within the limits of moral suasion, to abolish slavery; but, unlike ourselves, it employs no political power to this end. What is still worse, it seeks to separate the free States from the slave States, and to leave the slave States, so far as concerns the political power of the free States, at perfect liberty to continue their oppression and torture of the black man. The Liberty Party is the only political party in the land, that insists on the right and duty to wield the political power of the nation for the overthrow of every part and parcel of American Slavery. That little party not only claims that there is no law for slavery, and can be no law for that most sweeping of all piracies, but that the federal Constitution demands the abolition of all American Slavery, State or national.
Circumstanced as we are, brethren, is it not our duty to come together, for the purpose of enlightening each other's minds, and cheering each other's hearts, and strengthening each other's hands? We believe that it is, and hence we take the liberty to propose that a Convention of Radical Political Abolitionists of all parts of the country be held at Syracuse, N, Y., on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the 26th, 27th, and 28th days of next June.
We think it especially important, that the Convention be attended by all, who are accustomed to lecture in behalf of our principles, and by all who are disposed to embark in such lecturing. The occasion will be a very favorable one for rendering themselves more able and more useful in this department of labor. Nearly twenty years ago, a Convention of Anti-Slavery Lecturers was held in the City of New York, with very good effect.
It is to be hoped that measures will be adopted at the proposed meeting for obtaining means to sustain lecturers, and to extend the circulation of periodicals devoted to our cause.
W. E. WHITING,
JAMES McCUNE SMITH,
S. S. JOCELYN,
April 4, 1855.
THE Convention of "Radical Political Abolitionists," assembled at Syracuse, in the State of New York, on the 26th, 27th, and 28th days of June, A. D. 1855, improve the opportunity to declare to the nation and to the world their convictions concerning American Slavery, its relations to the American people and Government, the responsibilities resting upon them, the principles by which they should be governed, and the measures they are morally bound to employ for the deliverance of their country, and the liberation of the enslaved.
We believe slaveholding to be an unsurpassed crime, and we hold it to be the sacred duty of civil government to suppress crime. We conceive slaveholding to be the annihilation of human rights, and we hold it to be the grand end and mission of civil government to protect human rights. Nay, more - we hold that the government which annihilates instead of protecting human rights, should be known, not as civil government, but only as a conspiracy, a usurpation.
We accordingly declare and maintain that there can be no legitimate civil government, rightfully claiming support and allegiance as such, that is not authorized, nay, that is not morally and politically bound to prohibit and to suppress slaveholding. The responsibilities of civil government in this country, rest, primarily, upon the people, by whom their own forms of government are instituted, and who, at the ballot-box, provide for their administration in conformity with their wishes.
If the Federal Government, by the Constitution, is not competent to this task, then it is incompetent to be a civil government at all, or to secure the objects set forth in the Constitution itself. It can neither "form a more perfect union," nor "establish justice," nor "insure domestic tranquillity, nor "provide for the common defense," nor "promote the general welfare," nor "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
But we deny that our fathers ever attempted such an absurdity as that of instituting a civil government without power to protect the natural rights of its subjects; a government "to establish justice" and "secure the blessings of liberty" without powers adequate to the suppression of slaveholding. We challenge the proof that when they declared it self-evident that all men are created equal, they intended a portion of them to be slaves; that when they were publicly proclaiming inalienable rights, they were secretly plotting unparalleled wrongs; that when they "appealed to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of their intentions" they were acting the part of base hypocrites; that when they professed "to establish justice," they bound themselves to support the grossest injustice; that under pretense of securing the blessings of liberty, they entered into a compact for the support of slavery! Their language in the Constitution indicates nothing of the kind, but the opposite; and there is no proof that their intentions were in conflict with their language. We deem it, therefore, right and proper to construe the Constitution as it reads, and not as the slaveholders pretend that it means. And by such a construction, the Constitution requires the Federal Government to abolish slavery in all the States.
More than all this, we maintain that if it could be proved (as it can not be) that our fathers mentally intended to protect slavery, while their words, in the Constitution, required its suppression, we should still hold ourselves at liberty and under obligations to use the Constitution according to its righteous language, and against their unrighteous intentions. If men use language for dishonest purposes, and with dishonest intentions, it becomes the duty of honest men who may succeed them, and to whom their written instruments are committed, to defeat such dishonest purposes and intentions if they can, by interpreting the language according to its natural and just meaning. Every enlightened and upright jurist will thus decide; and the decision commits to the Federal Government a Constitution that binds it to suppress slavery.
We deny that the Constitution could have contained any valid recognition of slavery, because there was never any legalized slavery in this country, to be the subject of such recognition. We deny that slavery can be legalized by any conceivable process whatever. And, aside from this, we affirm that, according to the rules and maxims, even of slaveholding jurisprudence, and of the Supreme Court of the United States, there never has been any legalized slavery in this country. On this point we are ready to produce abundant testimony from eminent slaveholding jurists and statesmen themselves. And the whole history of slavery and of the slave trade proves the statement to be truthful.
We affirm that the general structure of the Federal Constitution, as well as its particular provisions, preclude the legal existence of slavery, forbid the States to maintain it, provide for the liberation of the enslaved, and authorize and require, at the hand of the Federal Government, its suppression. The powers conferred on the Federal Government by the Constitution are amply adequate to this object. And we deny that the exercise of those powers, for the suppression of slavery, would be any infringement of constitutional State rights, or of any of the "reserved rights" of the States or of the people.
With these views of the Constitution of our country, we feel ourselves prepared for an aggressive - not a merely defensive - contest with the slave power. We take our position accordingly, and ask our fellow citizens to do the same. We sue for no needless amendments of the Constitution, requiring the concurrrence of three fourths of the States. Properly construed, it already gives us all we need. We attempt no dissolution of the Union. The Constitution makes no provision for it, and nothing short of a revolution could effectuate it. We consent to no dissolution that would leave the slave in his chains. We demand the constitutional deliverance of the slave, and of the whole country, North and South - a deliverance by the peaceful ballot-box, and within the power of the non-slaveholders of the United States. We seek not to console or to delude ourselves or others with mere idle efforts to prevent the further extension of Slavery, while admitting its constitutional right to continue it where it exists. We will consent to no compromise with the deceiver, that keeps no faith with his dupes - no compromise with pollution and crime. We yield not one inch for one moment, nor on any conditions, to the control of the demon over any portion of our country, or over a single human being over whom floats our national flag. We are Americans, knowing no North and no South, no slaves and no slave States. We are not only Americans, but men, and demand that, irrespective of race or complexion, all men shall be free.
Believing, as we firmly do, that the time to maintain, to fortify, and to render effective this high and commanding ground has fully come, and that the occupancy of any lower ground would invite further aggressions and insure final defeat, we resolutely take our stand on the platform already defined. Our political activities must meet the demands of our convictions. We can consent to nothing less.
With our ideas of the nature of civil government, of our constitutional powers, of our corresponding responsibilities as republican citizens; with our views of the common brotherhood of the human race and of the equal rights of our fellow countrymen in bonds, the position we have here taken rises high above any mere calculations of expedients, of availabilities, or of exigencies, however pressing and portentous. The ground we occupy is, to us, holy ground; the ground of the true and of the right; the ground marked out by the instincts of our moral natures, by our relations to our fellow men, by our allegiance to the common Father of all, by the Divine law of loving our neighbor as ourselves. We feel that our prayers to Heaven for the security of our liberties - for the liberties of the non-slaveholding states, or of any portion of our free territory - would be impious and offensive to a just God, the impartial Parent of all men, if, in the act of offering such prayers, and of putting forth our own efforts to that end, we should consent to leave any portion of our fellow countrymen in bondage, entitled as they are, by the organic and supreme law of the land, to the same freedom and protection with ourselves.
The moral government of God over the nations, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and as illustrated in the page of universal history, forbids us to cherish any expectation of securing permanently our own liberties, or the liberties of any portion of the nation to which we belong, by any process short of securing the liberties of each and all.
The foundation principles of civil government and of civil law, confirm us in the same belief. The past and passing history of our own country, and of the pending struggle between despotism and freedom, testifies to the same truth, and assures us that there is no rational ground to expect the deliverance of our country, but by a strict adherence to the great principles upon which our measures are founded. To those principles and measures we cling, as to the sheet-anchor of American liberty, and we call on all the friends of humanity, of the slave, of free institutions, of pure religion, and of our common country, to come up to the rescue, and cast in their lot with us, in this great struggle. "Sink or swim, survive or perish," we are resolved to go forward. Our panoply is the truth. Our confidence is in Him who is the refuge of the oppressed, and in whose hands are the destinies of all.
THE convention of "Radical Political Abolitionists" assembled at Syracuse, N. Y., on the 26th, 27th, and 28th days of June, 1855, submit to their fellow citizens the following outline of their views of the illegality and unconstitutionality of American Slavery, and of the constitutional duty of the Federal Government to abolish it, in all the States.
When we say that slavery is illegal, we mean not merely that it is morally wrong, wicked, or sinful, in the sight of God, but that it is likewise unlawful, by the established principles of human jurisprudence, just as murder, arson, robbery, theft, and assault and battery, are unlawful, and that there is no more valid law for the one than there is for the other. We mean that slaveholding is illegal, as other criminal practices are illegal. We affirm that there is no legislation in any of the States that makes it legal. We maintain that, even without any legislation against slavery, it is now the right and duty of the Courts of Justice to liberate any slave who may bring a suit for his or her freedom.
We affirm its illegality on two general grounds: First, Slavery can not possibly be legalized. Second, If it could be, it never has been, and is not now, legalized in this country. The ground first mentioned is that of an universal and immutable principle: the second is that of history, and of existing local fact.
FIRST, Slavery can not possibly be legalized. In its very nature it is incapable of legalization. The standard writers on common law affirm the impossibility of legalizing slavery, even by positive municipal law. They declare the right to liberty to be inalienable, and that statutes against fundamental morality are void.*
[* Coke, Fortescue, Blackstone, etc.]
The nature of civil government and of civil law, as defined by all standard writers on those subjects, proves it impossible to legalize slavery.† "To secure" man's inalienable rights, "governments are instituted among men." And consequently they can have no lawful authority to violate the rights which they exist only to protect. The protection of" human rights necessarily involves the prohibition and suppression of slaveholding. Having no legal authority to violate men's natural rights, governments can delegate no such authority to others. he powers of civil government are limited. But they would be unlimited, if they could have the authority and the power to legalize the enslavement of their subjects. All the declarations ever made (and they have abounded in all civilized nations and ages) that all men are created equal, that all men are entitled to personal liberty, and that governments are for the protection of rights,‡ are so many declarations that slavery is incapable of legalization. All the venerated definitions of law go to the same point. "Whatever is just" says Cicero, "is also the true law, nor can this true law be abrogated by any written enactments." "Municipal law," says Blackstone, "is properly defined to be a rule of civil conduct, prescribed by the supreme power in a state, commanding what is RIGHT, and prohibiting what is WRONG." "Political law," says Witherspoon, "is the authority of any society stamped upon moral duty." And, according to Jacob's Law Dictionary, "Law" is "the rule and bond of men's actions, or it is a rule for the well-government of civil society, to give to every man that which doth BELONG to him."
[†Moses, Cicero, Justinian, Coke, Forteseue, Lyttleton, Blackstone, Jacob, (Law Dictionary,) Hobart, Noyes, Wood, Hampden, Witherspoon, Vattel, Hooker, etc.
‡See Letters on Slavery, by O. S. Freeman; containing quotations from Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and other renowned men of antiquity and of subsequent ages.]
In short, the entire science of civil government and civil law will have to be revised and revolutionized before slavery can be made legal.
SECOND, But, if it were possible to legalize slavery, it is historically certain that it never has been legalized in this country. No statutes have been enacted that could have legalized it - none that have even pretended to do so. To this point we have the testimony of the prominent slaveholding statesmen and jurists of America.
The late John C. Calhoun, of South-Carolina;* Judge Matthews of Louisiana;† Senator Mason, of Virginia; Mr. Baylys, Representative in Congress from the same State;‡ Senator Douglas, of Illinois; Mr. Toombs, of Georgia;§ [§ Debates in Congress on the Nebraska Bill. Determined to carry slavery into Kansas and Nebraska without any statutory enactments creating it, they were driven to the necessity of declaring the truth that it had been introduced into all the slave States without statute.] Gen. Stringfellow, of Missouri; with Hon. S. C. Brooks and John McQueen, of South-Carolina, William Smith, of Virginia, and Thomas L. Clingman, of North-Carolina,¶ (Members of Congress,) and Southern editors generally, affirm that slavery grew up in the American Colonies without any positive enactments creating or authorizing it - that nothing of that character is known to the legislation of this country - although statutes have been framed to regulate what was assumed to have had a previous legal existence. And yet it is admitted by the Southern Courts that slavery is contrary to natural right and to common law, and can only exist by the force of local, municipal, positive law. On this ground, the Southern Courts have liberated slaves who had been carried by consent of their masters beyond the limits of the local jurisdiction where they had been held as slaves.* The Supreme Court of the United States (in the case of Prigg vs. Pennsylvania, 16 Peters) declared that "the state of slavery is a mere municipal regulation, founded upon and limited to the verge of the territorial law." Putting these two statements together, the matter-of-fact illegality of American slavery is seen at a glance.
[*Reply to T. H. Benton, 1849.
† American Slave Code, pp. 266-268. "No legislative act of the on to it." - Wheeler's Law of Slavery, pp. 8, 9.
‡Mr. Mason objected to a jury trial for fugitives on the ground that such a process would require that "proof shall be brought forward that slavery is established by existing laws;" and, said he, " it is impossible to comply with the requisition, for no such law can be produced." - Goodell's Slavery and Anti-Slavery, pp. 570, 571.
¶These gentlemen assume the present legality of slavery in Kansas "without any positive law." And they say "The veriest school-boy must know - as a matter of history - that, although slavery existed in all the old States, in not one of them was a law ever enacted to establish it" - New York Daily Tribune, Jan. 17, 1855.
*American Slave Code, pp. 261-264; Wheeler's Law of Slavery, 340-346, 348, 349, 335; Story's Conflict of Laws, 92-97; 8 Louisiana Reports, 475; 2 Marshall's Kentucky Rep., 467; Martin's Lou. Rep., 401; Walker's Miss. Rep., 36.]
The whole history of slavery and of the slave trade in England and her American Colonies shows that slavery has never been legalized.
The "permit" of Queen Elizabeth to John Hawkins, to carry Africans to the Colonies, forbade their transportation without their own free consent. But he took them away by brute force, and, therefore, in violation of the conditions of the permit under which he pretended to act.† All the subsequent acts of parliament "regulating the trade to Africa," particularly the act of 23 George II., chiefly relied upon by the slave traders, forbade, under heavy penalties, the carrying away of Africans by any act of "fraud, force, or violence."‡ But the whole history of the traffic proves it to have been prosecuted in open and direct violation of these prohibitions. So that the matter-of-fact African slave trade never was legalized. This was proved by William Pitt, in the British Parliament, and this led to the abolition of the slave trade.§
[†Clarkson's History, p. 30; Edwards' History of West-Indies, vol. 2, pp. 43, 44; Goodell's Slavery and Anti-Slavery, p. 6.
‡Spooner's Unconstitutionality of Slavery, pp. 29-35.
§Clarkson's History, p. 314; Goodell's Slavery and Anti-Slavery, p. 65.]
When the slaves were landed in the Colonies and sold to the planters, there were no English or colonial statutes authorizing the procedure. Had there been any, they would have been of no valid, force, because contrary to the British constitution and the English common law. This appears from the decision of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, who, on this ground, liberated the slave Somerset, and declared slavery illegal in England, in the year 1772, four years before our Declaration of Independence. The same decision, though never enforced in the colonies, was legally binding upon them, as Granville Sharpe publicly maintained.* The colonial charters, moreover, restricted the colonial legislatures from passing any laws contrary to the common law of England, which forbids slavery.† And finally, there were no colonial enactments, up to the hour of the Declaration of Independence, that even undertook to legalize slavery, and there have been no such State enactments since.
[* Stuart's Memoir of Sharpe; Clarkson's History; Slavery and Anti-Slavery, chap. vi.
The Declaration of Independence would have abolished slavery if it had had any previous legal existence. Add to this, the Constitutions of all the original States, formed soon after the Declaration of Independence, were incompatible with slavery. And so was the common law. On these grounds, the Courts in Massachusetts, without any legislative enactment on the subject, decided that slavery was illegal.‡ And slavery in all the other States stood precisely on the same basis.
[‡ Pickering's Reports, pp. 209, 210; Kent's Commentary, p. 252; Washburn's Jud. Hist. Mass. p. 202; Dr. Jonathan Edwards' Sermon, Sept. 15, 1791. See Goodell's Slavery and Anti-Slavery, pp. 111, 112.]
No one charges upon the old "Articles of Confederation" any recognition of slavery. And no one supposes that the Federal Constitution originated it, or gave to it any legal validity which it did not possess before. The absolute illegality of slavery, at the time the Federal Constitution was adopted, is hence as certain as any legal fact of history can be, and no one pretends that it has acquired any additional legality since that time. This fact we have deemed an important one to be affirmed in the Constitution of our Abolition Society, as a foundation of our distinctive measures. We have, therefore, affirmed further that -
It is a violation of the Constitution. It can not legally exist under the Constitution, which does not sanction nor even tolerate its existence.
If slavery be illegal it is unconstitutional, of course. If it was illegal when the Constitution was adopted, then the Constitution can contain no legal recognition of it - no binding compromise with it. The Constitution could not have recognized as legal what did not legally exist - could not have formed any valid compromise with it.
Slavery is unconstitutional because it is irreconcilably opposed to the declared objects of the Constitution, namely, "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." These grand objects of the Constitution can never be secured so long as slavery is permitted to exist in the nation.
The Constitution forbids slavery by declaring that "no person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law." The phrase "due process of law," means indictment and trial by jury for some alleged crime, and verdict and sentence in open court. For this definition we have the authority of Lord Coke, Judge Story,* and Justice Bronson.† And by the two latter this definition is expressly applied to this clause of the Constitution of the United States. No one will pretend that any slave in the United States ever lost his liberty by this process, or that "due process of law" could ever reduce any man to slavery, though it may deprive him of liberty by imprisonment for crime. This provision of the Constitution is an "Amendment," which, like the codicil to a will, over-rides, displaces, and abrogates whatever in the original instrument might have been inconsistent with it.
[* Story's Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, in which he cites the definition of Lord Coke.
†Hill's Reports, iv, 146. Vide Gerrit Smith's speech in Congress on the Nebraska Bill.]
In another "Amendment" the Constitution forbids slavery by providing that "the right of the people to be secure in their persons," etc., etc., "shall not be violated."
It does this by providing that "No State shall pass any bills of attainder or laws impairing the obligations of contracts;" nor "grant any titles of nobility."
Slavery is an "attainder" because it "attaints the blood," and imposes disabilities on the child, on account of the condition of the parent. It establishes an order of nobility by that same process, and by conferring hereditary or transferable powers of subjugation and control upon one class or order of men over another class, their hereditary inferiors and subjects. It not merely impairs but annihilates the power of making contracts.
The Constitution not only forbids slavery but provides for the liberation of every slave, by declaring that "the writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended in time of peace." "It is this writ," (says Christian, the annotator of Blackstone,) "which makes slavery impossible in England." Its proper application would make slavery impossible here.
"The object of the writ," (says Blackstone,) "is to bring the body of the person who has been restrained of liberty" into Court, "who shall determine whether the cause of his commitment be just, and thereupon to do, as JUSTICE shall appertain." (16 Charles I. c. 10. Blackstone's Com., B. I. 135.) "It is to be directed to the person detaining another, and commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner, with the day and cause of his capture and detention," etc., "to do, submit to, and receive whatsoever the judge or court awarding the writ shall consider in that behalf." (Blackstone, B. I., 131.)
This writ, according to Blackstone, was designed to carry out more perfectly, the provision of Magna Charta, that no man should be deprived of liberty "unless it be by legal indictment, or the process of common law," which includes trial by jury.
It has this power just as clearly as it has power to secure the declared objects of the instrument that gave it existence for the very purpose of securing them - the power "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." The power to do either one of these six things includes ample power to abolish slavery.
Congress has power to declare war and make peace. Slavery is an outrage on the slaves, and they are necessarily enemies to the nation that permits it. Congress, therefore, has power to make peace with the slaves by restoring to them their rights. John Quincy Adams affirmed the right of Congress to abolish slavery as a means of defense in time of war." But until slavery is abolished, we are continually exposed to a state of war. And the same principle affirmed by Mr. Adams would warrant abolition as a means of preserving peace or of being prepared for war.
"Congress has power to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States." But this can not be done without abolishing slavery.
"Congress shall have power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization." To "naturalize" a man is to change his condition from that of an alien to that of a free citizen. Under this clause Congress may determine whether or no the slaves are already free citizens. If they are, it can declare them to be so. If they are not, it can naturalize them, and make them such.
The Constitution binds the Federal Government to abolish slavery in binding it to secure its own declared objects, (as already enumerated,) and in bringing the Federal Government into existence for this very end. If the Government is not bound to do this, it is bound to do nothing in support of the Constitution, or for the benefit of the people.
The Constitution provides, that "The United States SHALL gurantee [sic] to EVERY State in this Union a republican form of government." This makes it the duty of Congress to see to it that every State maintains republican institutions. But what is a republic? The Constitution itself, in its preamble and in the provisions already quoted, furnishes the definition.
"It is essential to a republican government that it be derived from the great body of society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, OR a favored class of it." (Madison, in No. 39 of the Federalist.)
This was written for the especial object of persuading the people to adopt the Constitution, by convincing them that it provided a republican government.
"The true foundation of republican government is the equal rights of every citizen in his person and property, and in their management." (Jefferson.)
And Mr. Jefferson frequently calls the slaves citizens.* [* "With what execration should the statesman be loaded, who, permitting one half of the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor datrioe of the other. For if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other than that in which he is born to live and labor for another." etc. - Notes on Virginia.]
Whatever the rights of the States may be, they can not include nor sanctify State wrongs. The States have reserved no right to violate the inalienable rights for the protection of which both the State and National Governments were organized. They have no right to do that which the Federal Constitution, ratified by them, expressly forbids them to do.
However limited the powers of the Federal Government may be, they are not restricted from doing, that which pertains essentially, in the nature of things, to all civil government, namely, to protect the personal liberty of its subjects. Such a restriction would render it no civil government at all. The Federal Government is not restricted from the proper exercise of the powers expressly conferred upon it, nor from doing the service which the Constitution expressly requires it to do.
"The Constitution and laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof," etc., etc., "shall be THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." (Art. VI. Clause 2.)
"We see this principle professedly acted upon, to enforce unconstitutional enactments, (in favor of slavery,) and it is time to use it to enforce constitutional laws for the protection of liberty.
"Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." (Art. I., Sect., 8, Clause 18.)
In the Virginia Convention that ratified the Constitution, Patrick Henry, (a member of the Federal Convention,) said that Congress, by the Constitution, had "power to pronounce all slaves free." "There is," said he, "no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point. They have the power in clear and unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it."
In the same Convention, Gov. Randolph said: "They insist that the abolition of slavery will result from this Constitution. I hope there is no one here who will advance an objection so dishonorable to Virginia. I hope that at the moment they are securing the rights of their citizens, an objection will not be started that those unfortunate men now held in bondage BY THE OPERATION OF THE GENERAL GOVERNMENT, may be made FREE."
With this "understanding" the Constitution was ratified by Virginia.
General Wilson, another member of the Federal Convention, from Pennsylvania, assured the people of that State that the Constitution "laid a foundation for banishing slavery out of this country."
The clauses commonly quoted in favor of the claims of the slaveholders, do not warrant those claims. And if they did, they could not nullify or abrogate the preceding ones.
The clause concerning "persons held to service and labor in one State, under the laws thereof, and escaping to another" - and providing that they "shall be delivered up to the person to whom such service or labor may be due," can not apply to slaves. It does not describe their condition. Being held as "chattels personal," they are not recognized as "persons." "Slaves can make no contract:" and, therefore, nothing can be "due" from them. There are no laws holding them to "service or labor" in any of the slave States, nor any laws that establish or legalize slavery. The use of the word "service" instead of "servitude," proves that this clause can not apply to "slaves," but only to "free persons;" for this distinction, by the testimony of Mr. Madison, had been made by the Convention itself, in respect to the meaning of these two words.
"Art. I., Sec. 2. On motion of Mr. Randolph, the word 'servitude' was struck out, and the word 'service' unanimously inserted; the former being thought to express the condition of slaves, and the latter the obligations of free persons." (Madison Papers, vol. iii. p. 1569.)
So that this clause can not apply to slaves, but only to apprentices, free laborers, and contractors who had agreed, for a consideration received, to perform "service or labor."
The phrase "free persons," in the clause concerning the apportionment of representatives and direct taxes, has been construed as having been used in contradistinction from aliens, not slaves. High authorities for this construction are cited by Mr. Spooner. The clause concerning the migration or importation of certain persons previous to 1808, and commonly applied to the African slave trade, is also susceptible of a different interpretation, as has often been shown. But if this was a "compromise" with slavery, it has long since, by its own limitation, expired, and there is no good reason why the plain and explicit powers vested in the Federal Government should not now be exercised for the abolition of slavery.
There are many ways by which the Federal Government, in strict accordance with the Constitution, may abolish slavery. Either department of the Government, by itself, may do much, if not all, that would be necessary to secure that result.
The judiciary department is amply competent to the task, in the absence of any legislation whatever. Any one of the Federal Courts has power to issue the writ of habeas corpus to any slave, that may demand it. Nay, the judges are under the most solemn constitutional obligations to do so. And when the slave and his master are brought into Court, they are bound to "determine whether the cause of his (the slave's) commitment (detention in slavery) be just, and thereupon do as JUSTICE shall appertain." In doing this they would follow the illustrious precedents of the Courts of Massachusetts and of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, in the case of Somerset; a decision which immortalized his name, and shed a lustre of unfading glory on the jurisprudence of his country.*
[* The effects of this decision are thus celebrated by Cowper: "Slaves can not breathe in England; if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are free; They touch our country, and their shackles fall. That's noble, and bespeaks a nation proud And jealous of the blessing."]
If the Judiciary fails to do this, the Legislature should provide for, it by special enactment.
The same power that establishes the present Federal Courts may, if necessary, establish Federal Courts in every county or town in the Union, and the same authority that appoints the present judges may appoint proper judges in all those Courts. (See Art. II., Sect. 2, and Art. III., Sect. 1.)
The President, in the exercise of his appointing power, may appoint to office any slave whom he deems qualified to discharge its duties; and he is bound, by his oath of office, to treat slavery as illegal and unconstitutional in all his official acts. This covers a wide field.
Congress is bound to do the same, and in its organization, of the militia, its supervision of the post-offices and the transportation of the mails, to know nothing of slavery or of distinctions of color. It is bound to "guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government" that shall displace slavery; by just such measures as it would employ, if a State should establish an "order of nobility" in any other form, or substitute a hereditary monarchy for a representative government.
Congress, by a declaratory enactment, may pronounce all the slaves citizens, and, as such, entitled to the protection of the Federal Government. Congress, in the same manner, if need by, may declare the fact of the case as it exists - that slavery is illegal and in violation of the Constitution. Or it may, by appropriate enactments, provide for the naturalization of the slaves and their consequent protection. It may then provide for an apportionment of representation in accordance with the constitutional provision, properly construed, enumerating "three fifths" of the aliens, as in contradistinction from "free persons," or "all other persons."
The entire subject is within the legitimate action of the Federal Government, which has been so long wielded for the support of slavery. And the people of the Free States, at the ballot-box, can provide for an administration that will, in some way, rid the nation of its great national iniquity.
This is the enterprise to which we invite the friends of liberty in America. We urge its vigorous prosecution as a solemn duty to God, to our country, to the slave, and to mankind. God holds nations responsible for national sins. He holds the people of all nations responsible for the execution of justice by their national governments. And under republican governments, where the people elect their own rulers, there can be no shadow of excuse for their neglect of this duty.
ASSEMBLED AT SYRACUSE IN THE STATE OF NEW-YORK,
ON THE 26TH, 27TH, AND 28TH DAYS OF JUNE, A.D. 1855.
To the People of the United States:
FELLOW CITIZENS: - Referring you to our "DECLARATION," which defines our position, objects, and measures, and also to our "Exposition of the Constitutional Duty of the Federal Government to abolish American Slavery," we are desirous of presenting to you, more fully, some considerations which, we think, should persuade you to enlist with us, in our enterprise.
Our object is, primarily and directly, the immediate liberation of three millions and a half of our enslaved fellow men and fellow countrymen, "Native Americans," entitled, by the Constitution and laws of their country to the same rights and liberties which we, ourselves, claim and exercise; the same that you, fellow citizens - all of you who are not held as slaves - demand and enjoy. And, allow us to add, that, so far as the vaunted safeguards of our National Declarations, National and State Constitutions, Bills of Rights, positive law and common law are concerned, there is not a man of you who has any better or any other security, to-day, for personal liberty, or protection from enslavement, than those that entitle to instant liberation every slave in the land.
What our free institutions provide for one, they provide for all. What they provide not for all, they provide for none.
There is not, at this moment, the man of wealth, of learning, of refinement, of high social position, of exalted rank, of official station, in all these United States, from the day-laborer to the President, who can boast for himself, his wife, or his children, any legal exemption from slavery, or any legal means of release from enslavement by kidnappers, that is not, in law and equity, equally available for any and every slave in the land.
If Ex-President Fillmore, himself, who signed the Fugitive Slave Bill, should be kidnapped and dragged before a United States Commissioner, under that bill, he could appeal for protection to no National or State authorities, no National or State documents, constitutions or laws, the impartial and legal application of which, would be less available for ANTHONY BURNS, than for him! Could he point to the National Declaration that "all men are created equal - that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" So could Burns. Could he plead that "to secure these rights, Governments" (especially the American Governments, State and National) "are instituted among men?" So could Burns. Could he plead his right to liberty under the irrepealable law of nature - the Common Law? So could Burns. Could he affirm that there were no positive laws enslaving him? So could Burns. Could he demand, under the Constitution of the United States, the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus? So could Burns. Could he demand with that writ, and under that Constitution, a trial by jury, and "due process of law?" So could Burns. Could he claim, in such a trial, that the Judge should "determine whether the cause of his commitment be JUST, and thereupon do, as JUSTICE shall appertain?"* So could Burns. At every point, the claims of Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Burns would run parallel. And what Messrs. Fillmore and Burns might claim, as defenses of liberty, might be claimed by every slave in the land, whether a fugitive, or on the plantation where he was born.
* Habeas Corpus Act, 16 Charles I. c. 10. Blackstone B. I., 135.
We understand - of course we do - that Mr. Fillmore and other gentlemen of his standing, have no personal fears of enslavement. But we know, too, that the safeguards of personal liberty are for the weak, the obscure, the defenseless; and still further, that no people, not prepared to become slaves, will long submit to the indignity of occupying the same level with slaves, in respect to the legal security of their rights to personal liberty. Our fathers would not endure a three-penny tax on tea, because it involved the principle of usurpation. Will their sons endure legal liability to chattel enslavement? Will they acknowledge this to be their condition? They must, and do, virtually acknowledge it, if they admit that any human being in the country is in this condition!
If, then, it be now asked, why the slave, with all these legal and constitutional safeguards, finds no relief by them - the answer is, that the pro-slavery construction of the Constitution - the pretense that it is legal, is constitutional, and that the Federal Government has no power to render the Constitutional safeguards of personal liberty effectual for the security of its subjects - has caused all the mischief, and in doing it, has also placed in the same legal predicament, the personal security of every citizen of the United States! It is a construction that annihilates the Federal Government, except as an overseer, whip in hand, in the employ of the slaveholders. This humiliation of the Federal Government comes of necessity from the dogma that it cannot protect its subjects from enslavers - a dogma that, of itself, exalts the power of enslavers above the power of the NATION.
Thus exalted, what shall prevent it, fellow citizens, from doing its will and pleasure with your rights, as well as with the rights of its colored victims? If the Government can not protect them, how, or by what constitutional provisions, can it protect you? Nearly twenty years ago, it was predicted by a slaveholding Governor,* [* Governor McDuffie of South-Carolina. Message to Legislature, 1836.] that within twenty-five years, the mass of the laboring population of the North - "bleached or unbleached" - would be enslaved. If all our great national safeguards of liberty are to be pronounced worthless, for lack of any constitutional power of the nation to make them effectual, what shall prevent the fulfilment of the prediction?
Is the remedy to be found in "State Rights?" What becomes of State Rights, if the Constitution ratified by the States, and declared by them to be the "supreme law of the land" affords and allows no personal protection for the citizens of whom "the State" must be composed? What is a State without free citizens? Or, what is it, with only citizens whose liberty is at the mercy of kidnappers?
Bear in mind, if you please, that, so far as law and government are concerned, you are at the mercy of kidnappers, every man of you, unless the National Government can protect all its subjects from enslavement. What protection can your State Government afford you that it could not afford to Hubbard or Hoare, to Jerry or Burns? For, bear in mind, further, that the same interpretation of the Constitution that denies to the Federal Government the power to protect the personal rights of its subjects, denies also to the STATE Governments the right to protect the personal rights of their subjects! Why is it supposed that the Federal Government has no power to protect the personal rights of its subjects? Simply because it is supposed that the Constitution recognizes the legal and constitutional right of slaveholding. And why is it supposed that the State Governments have no power to protect the personal rights of their subjects? It is for precisely the same reason.
The theory that the FEDERAL Government has no constitutional right to protect its subjects from enslavement, must first be exploded, before there can be the recognition of any "STATE RIGHTS," even for the protection of personal liberty. How egregious, then, is the mistake of those who imagine themselves champions of "State rights" when they deny to the Federal Government the constitutional right of liberating the slaves!
You see, then, fellow citizens, that this enterprise for the liberation of our enslaved countrymen becomes, in its effects, a great national question - the question of national freedom or national enslavement - the question whether we have any State or National Government that can secure our own freedom. It becomes also a personal question - a family question. It comes home to the firesides and bosoms of each one of us, who call ourselves freemen, or who claim the legal security of our children and wives. If one man, or woman, under our national flag, on American soil, may be enslaved, another may be - ALL may be.* Where then is personal security? Where is national freedom? Where are our "free institutions?" Of what use to us are our State or National Governments? If they can not secure our personal liberty, how can they protect our rights of property, or any other rights?
[* In confirmation, we have the case of William Phillips, a free white citizen of Kansas, a lawyer, accused of no crime, who was seized by Missourian brigands, insulted, forced away, sold at auction as a slave, and actually taken off, by the purchaser, beyond the reach or knowledge of his friends, though he afterwards escaped.]
Our object, then, secondarily, yet even more comprehensively, is the security of NATIONAL liberty, of YOUR liberties and OUR OWN, along with the liberties of THE ENSLAVED. If we regard our Constitutions and laws as being of any value to us, as defenses of our rights, it becomes us to preserve them, in the only way in which Constitutions and laws ever can be preserved, and that is by the impartial use and application of them for the protection of all.
If we are indeed living under a National Government, and under State Governments that can not protect us, it is high time that the discovery were made. But if the National Government can protect us, it can deliver the enslaved. It then becomes our duty to wield that government by our votes, for their liberation, and in doing it, to preserve, by vigorous and healthful exercise, the constitutional powers of legal protection essential to our own position, as republican freemen.
Civil government inheres in civil society. It is the control which every State or Nation is bound, by the law of social humanity (the law of God and of Nature) to maintain and to exercise over each one of its members, for the equal protection of all in their just rights. "Law is the rule or bond of men's actions, or it is a rule for the well government of society, to give to every man that which doth belong to him."* [* Jacob's Law Dictionary.]
With these definitions our National institutions and documents correspond. They declare it "self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." They affirm that our National Government was ordained "to establish justice," and "secure the blessings of liberty." The provisions of the Constitution are adapted to these ends. We have a Constitution and a government that thus recognize the obligation and claim the rightful authority of wielding the powers of civil government to secure human rights by the administration of justice. All the governments of the civilized world, under whatever forms, claim the same authority, and profess to make the administration of justice their grand end and aim. And these professions lie at the basis of their claims to obedience, support and veneration.
Throughout the Holy Scriptures the Supreme Judge of the world is represented as requiring all nations and their rulers to "execute justice between a man-and his neighbor," to "deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor," to "proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof." No nation or government under heaven was ever exempted from these obligations, and the page of universal history is filled with the records of Providential retributions upon rulers and people for their neglect to discharge them. We need spend no time in exposing the impious and puerile pretense that the structure of our own National Government is so very skillful and peculiar as to have evaded this universal law of social humanity, enstamped upon it by the Creator himself, and enforced, by terrible penalties, hitherto. Were there any validity in that excuse, all peoples and rulers might escape the obligations resting on them to protect human rights, by copying the institutions of republican America! Instead of having furnished model institutions for a world's liberation, our fathers might then have patented the first successful invention for, securing, with impunity, a world's enslavement. Our National documents, on the face of them, repudiate the absurd theory, and the more closely they are examined, the more unfounded do all such pretenses appear.
The history and present condition of our own country illustrate the responsibilities and retributions to which we have referred, and prove that this nation has not escaped, by any peculiar structure of its institutions, from the operation of universal laws. With ample powers for the protection of human liberty, with loud boasts of our unprecedented facilities for that work, we have, as a nation, allowed ourselves to neglect our first duty in that direction, the liberation of the enslaved. Our National Declaration and Constitution have thus become a dead letter. They have so long been rusting in idleness that their original powers are denied, their object forgotten, their machinery misunderstood, covered over with rubbish, and buried deep out of sight. If any thing is to be done for their recovery, preservation and use, it must be done speedily. The pretense that they are not adequate to the liberation of the enslaved, has, of necessity, produced the impression that they are not adequate to the protection of the free. The rights of free citizens of the United States, are, accordingly, trampled under foot. Said we not, truly, that the National Government that can not liberate the enslaved, can not protect the liberties of the free? Consider the facts.
Our seamen and other citizens enter the slave States. They are seized and imprisoned for no crime. Our State Governments seek legal redress in the Courts of the slave States. Their agents are summarily ejected and sent home. And the Federal Government that can not liberate the enslaved, can not protect the free. Of course it can not do the one, if it can not do the other - for the Constitution knows nothing of race' or complexion - knows nothing of masters and slaves. If it can protect one, it can protect all. If it can not protect all, it can protect none. If it must tolerate slavery, it must tolerate the lawless outrages in which slavery essentially consist, winch, constitute its life-blood, in which it had its origin, and by which, alone, it has always been sustained.
The Federal power that could protect Hoare and Hubbard, would be equally competent, on Northern or on Southern soil, to protect Jerry and Burns. The Habeas Corpus, and "due process of law," with their jury trial, if available for the one, may be made equally available for the other. The Slave Power, and the Federal Administrations that do its bidding, understand this, and take their course accordingly.
Another class of cases illustrates the same truth. A citizen of Wisconsin sojourns in Louisiana, as he has a constitutional right to do. "The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."* [* Const., Art. iv., sect. ii., clause 1.] But what are the privileges and immunities to which this citizen is entitled? May he freely exercise his religion? Not if his religion enjoins deeds of mercy to those who most need them. To the door of this Christian citizen there come the weary, the houseless, the homeless, the famishing. He receives and nourishes them as the representatives of his Saviour, who has said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me."† [†Matthew, ch. 25.] For no other offense, this peaceful Christian citizen, on the eve of returning home to Wisconsin, is intercepted, seized, condemned, and sentenced to imprisonment for twenty years, among felons. He is a citizen of the United States. Can the Government of his country protect him? No! not unless it may liberate the enslaved! It has, and can have, only one remedy for the slave and for his protector. The case of PARDON DAVIS is, in principle, the case of Walker, of Paine, of Thompson, of Work, of Burr, of Torrey, of Chaplin, of Drayton, of Sayres, and we know not how many others, in whose persons the rights of the free people of the North have been placed on precisely the same footing with the rights of the slaves. The protection of the Federal Government can not be extended to the one BECAUSE it can not be extended to the other.
And this is not all. The Federal Government, instead of being the protector of its free citizens, becomes itself, directly and actively, a violator of their most sacred religious rights.
And this, too, comes from the dogma that the Federal Government may tolerate slaveholding. It is absurd to expect or to demand its neutrality, which is as impossible as the neutrality of the individual citizen; nay, more so, for the Government is constantly compelled to act, one way or the other, treating slavery either as legal or as illegal, protecting it, or refusing it protection. The national tolerance of slavery becomes, of necessity, the national protection of slavery. If it is not to be treated as criminal, it is to be treated as innocent. And innocency is to be protected by government, of course. If slaveholding is not a crime to be suppressed, it is a natural right, as it is now claimed to be. And it is the business of government to protect natural rights.*
[* "I believe that involuntary servitude, as it exists in different States of this Confederacy, is recognized by the Constitution. I believe that it stands like any other admitted right; and that the States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions. I hold that the laws of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, are strictly constitutional, and to be unhesitatingly carried into effect. I believe that the constituted authorities of this republic are bound to regard the rights of the South in this respect, as they would view any other legal and constitutional right, and that the laws to enforce them should be respected and obeyed, not with reluctance encouraged by abstract opinions as to their propriety in a different state of society, but cheerfully, and according to the decisions of the tribunal to which their exposition belongs. Such have been, and are, my convictions, and upon them I shall act. I fervently hope that the question is at rest; and that no sectional or ambitious, or fanatical excitement may again threaten the durability of our institutions, or obscure the light of our prosperity." - President Pierce's Inaugural, Address, Senate, March 4, 1853. (See Congressional Globe, vol xxvi. p. 244.)]
The infamous Fugitive Slave Bill is a reproduction, on the soil of Massachusetts, New-York, and Ohio, of the most diabolical features of the slave code, and that, too, under the Federal authority. Louisiana incarcerates Pardon Davis of Wisconsin, for showing mercy to the poor, in Louisiana. The National Government goes beyond this. It incarcerates Sherman M. Boothe, of Wisconsin, in his own State, for the same offense. It imposes fines on Rush K. Sloan of Ohio, for acting as counsel for an alleged fugitive slave, on the free soil of Ohio. Men are beginning to see and feel that this is not much longer to be borne, unless slavery be allowed to overspread the whole country. But there is something behind all this, that should likewise be seen and felt; and that is, that this intolerable despotism of the Federal Government arises necessarily from the theory of the Constitution that denies the power and duty of the Federal Government to suppress slaveholding. If slavery is to be allowed in the nation, the slaveholder is to be recognised by the nation as having the rights of a slaveholder - the right of property in his slave. The business of government is to protect rights. And if the State Governments fail to protect the rights of slaveholders, by restoring their stray property, the Federal Government must provide that protection. Philosophically and historically, this is the genesis of the Fugitive Slave bill. From the premises the conclusion legitimately follows, and no special pleading will ever turn it aside. It will be in vain for the friends of liberty to denounce Fugitive Slave Bills, so long as they hold the theories of the Constitution that render them inevitable. The most that they can reasonably expect to do, in their present position, is to abate some of the more offensive features of the nuisance, and thus reconcile the people to the subversion of their liberties!
Fugitive Slave Bills are an outrage, because slavery is an outrage. They are unconstitutional mainly because slavery is unconstitutional. They are to be trampled under foot as unlawful, because slavery is to be trampled under foot as unlawful. The National Government is to repeal them by the National suppression of slavery. The religious liberties of Christians who piously shelter the poor and the needy, and who demand the right of furnishing all their fellow citizens with Bibles, and preaching to them the word of life, are to be restored, by the same enactment that proclaims liberty to the captives. Thus was the British Government compelled to protect Christian missionaries in Jamaica, by the liberation of the enslaved in that island.
Another illustration we have in the lawless Missourian conquest of Kansas, a territory consecrated to freedom. The nation imagined that, by its Missouri compromise, it had neutralized God's law of moral cause and effect, by which a nation permitting the oppression of any portion of its inhabitants, inevitably becomes itself enslaved - a law more resistless than the laws of gravitation, of mechanism, or of animal life. Heavy bodies descending, may be intercepted by obstacles arresting their descent. The best machines, by unforeseen accidents, may fail of their accustomed accomplishment. The laws of life, though violated, may assert their original dominion. All mere physical laws are limited in their control. Not so with moral laws. When did a nation ever persist in tolerating the enslavement of any portion of its members, and, yet retain its freedom? On what page of the world's history is the phenomenon recorded? Has it been dug up from the ruins of Nineveh, of Babylon, of Balbec, of Tyre? Has it been found in the secret chambers of the pyramids? Or embalmed in the tombs of the Pharaohs? Shall we search for it in the archives of Samaria? Of Judea? Of Greece? Of Rome? In what nation was "the stream of general liberty found to flow unpolluted through the mire of partial bondage?" What "people, habituated to lord it over others" - or to see their equal brethren lorded over, did not "in time, become base enough to let others lord it over them?"* [*Wm. Pinckney, of Maryland.]
Americans are, no doubt, a shrewd people, a brave people, a strong people, when sustained by "self-evident truths" - but they become blind, servile, and weak, as other people, when they allow themselves to act as if self-evident truths were falsehoods. The Missouri Compromise worked out its legitimate results, as was foreseen and foretold from the beginning. When the slave power had secured all south of the stipulated line, it demanded a foothold north of it. The feeble virtue that had yielded a part of the country to slavery, inspired no awe, as the defender of freedom in the remaining part. The event justified the anticipation. Northern liberty was betrayed by Northern leadership, a Northern President, Northern vote.
Recent events in Kansas are revealing to seeing eyes, the great truth on which we are insisting; namely, that the liberties of the white and of the colored people of the North and of the South, must stand or fall together, freedom in Kansas must be secured by liberation in Missouri, and in all the slave States.
Virginia is litigating the question whether New-York has a constitutional right to be a free State and exclude slavery. She intends, if needful, to carry the question to the Supreme Court, and have it decided by slaveholders. The real question, however, is, whether Virginians have a constitutional right to hold men as property. If they have - not otherwise - Virginia comes into Court with a strong claim, which will not easily be set aside.
Virginia, as a slave-breeding State, might be supposed to have an interest adverse to the opening of the African slave trade, under authority of the Federal Government, as is proposed. Yet Virginia has just elected a Governor, whose electioneering appeals, on the stump and from the press, have been marked with the earnest advocacy of that measure, equivalent to a denial of the right of the free States to exclude slavery and slave-trading. Here, again, the true issue is whether slavery is to be protected or suppressed by the Federal Government. If not suppressed it must be protected, and the law of human progress (in good, or in evil) favors the anticipations of Mr. Wise.
The tactics of the Slave Power have changed, and require corresponding changes in the tactics of its opposers. Time was when slavery was defended as the "peculiar institution" of the South, resting on "local positive law." That time has gone by. It has been discovered that the South has no such local positive law. Slaveholding without positive law, is now claimed as a natural right. On this claim it is going into Kansas, at the point of the bowie-knife, by the law of brute force, as it did into the original States at first. On this claim it is now pushing for a foothold, not only in free Territories, but in free States! The slavery that has hitherto been conceded to be legal and constitutional, in a part of the States, is now claimed to be legal and constitutional in all the States. How shall the claim be resisted but by the counter-claim that slavery is illegal and unconstitutional in all the States? Can we show, or will we admit, that what is constitutional in a part of the States, is unconstitutional in the rest of the States? Special pleadings, nice distinctions, ingenious subtleties, technicalities, and the like, are insufficient to parry off the assaults of the slaveholders now. They must be met, if met at all, on the bold and strong issues upon which they have now staked their cause - the Federal protection of slavery in all the country, or the Federal suppression of slavery in all the country. There can be no middle ground.
The prevalent construction of the Constitution has brought us where we are, and will carry us farther in the same direction, if it be not abandoned. It is a construction which leaves liberty no protection, either by the Federal or State Governments. It transforms the National Government into the patrol guard of slavery, and in the name of "State rights," annihilates State rights. It enables the slaveholders to absorb the functions of both Federal and State Governments. If they can enslave one American citizen, they can enslave all American citizens, and leave us neither State nor National Governments, distinct from the petty oligarchy that already controls us.
Say not, in reply to this, that men seldom, if ever, carry out the logical sequences of their principles. We know it. But we know, too, that the all-controlling law - the ever-operating providence of God - the most inexorable of all logicians, always does! Already, as we have seen, the logical sequences are rapidly maturing. Already the. citizens of half the States, if they dare to be truthful, are outlaws in the other half. Already the religion of mercy and humanity is proscribed by the National Government. Already the right of the States to exclude slavery is boldly questioned. Already in a free Territory, the ballot-box is thrown down by armed invaders; from a slave State, who threaten the expulsion and even the murder of the constitutional Governor because he will not sanction their violence. And along with "all this, the friends of liberty (for the most part,) as well as its enemies, are clinging to an unnatural and forced construction of the Constitution, which virtually denies the power of either the State or the National Government to protect the personal liberties of their free subjects, lest that same power should be exercised by the National Government for the liberation of the enslaved!
What are our remedies? our means of redress? What are the alternatives presented to us?
1. Shall we submit and become slaves? We will not insult you, fellow citizens, by a grave discussion of that question.
2. Shall we direct our efforts and devote our energies mainly to the enterprise of preventing the extension of slavery?
Certainly not, if we have the constitutional power to abolish slavery in the States. While it is our duty to oppose and vote against all attempts for its extension, it is our higher and more important duty to press directly for its suppression. We have no moral right to consent, by our silence at the ballot-box, to its tolerance in the existing States, in consideration of its being confined there, even if we could have security (as we can not have) that it could be thus confined. We are one people, one nation. We have no right to permit the enslavement of any part of the nation. And God will punish us by the loss of our own liberties if we do. The project of making "freedom national and slavery sectional" is delusive. The thing can not be done, any more than in the case of any other crime. You can not effectually and permanently suppress any crime in any part of a nation, while you grant it impunity, and admit it to be legal, in another part of the same nation. While you concede that slavery has a constitutional right to exist in the States, it will be difficult (except by the arts of special pleading) to prove that it has no constitutional right in the Territories; and almost equally difficult to persuade even the people of the North that it is fair dealing to refuse the admission of new slave States. "If one State may hold slaves," it is asked, "why may not another? If admitted at all, must they not be admitted on equal terms with the rest? Does the Constitution provide for two classes of States - one with constitutional rights to maintain slavery, and the other without any such rights?"*
[*Vide Journal of Commerce. Washington Union, Richmond Whig, etc.; also Senator Douglass, and others.]
These questions, so far as we know, have never been answered. And of all those who concede the constitutional right of the old States to maintain slavery, we know of none who hold that Congress has power to prevent a free State, old or new, when once in the Union, from changing its Constitution so as to introduce slavery, whenever it pleased. Very plainly it would be difficult for them to maintain such a position. It would be saying that Congress can suppress slavery in some of the States of the Union, but not in others of them.
The bottom line, then, of the mere "non-extension" policy is this: If it succeeds, (in despite of the incongruities that have been mentioned,) it has only kept slavery out of the Territories while remaining such, and has then compelled them to come in as free States, with the understanding that they can change their Constitutions and become slave States, as soon as they please! And then the whole benefit of "freedom national and slavery sectional" comes to this: We have secured "national freedom" in the District of Columbia, five miles square, and in the sparsely settled Territories while they remain such. We allow "sectional slavery" in all the rest of the nation - in every State that chooses to establish it! Is the nation to discharge its national duties, and secure national freedom, by a process like this? Look at it! "Freedom national" in, perhaps, the two hundredth part of the nation, and "Slavery sectional" in one half the nation already, with full license, under the Constitution, to enslave, if it can, the remainder! What a farce!
The "non-extension" experiment has been tried, and the results are before the world. Instead of reclaiming any territory possessed by the enemy, we have lost our own free Kansas and Nebraska, so far as the action of the Federal Government is concerned. The call on the Federal, Government for Wilmot Provisos against slavery, is answered by Federal legislation against freedom where it already exists.
In this it is easy to see the operation of moral cause and effect. The matter-of-fact political truce with slavery in the old States, was a matter-of-fact concession of its political and constitutional right to be there. Nay, more than this. The right of Federal interference with slavery in the States, the intention of such interference with it, was, in express terms, loudly disclaimed by the leaders of the "non-extension" enterprise, in Congress and out of it, from the forum and from the press. And this was a concession of all that the slavery propagandists need desire. From such premises, it was strictly logical for them to deduce, as they did, the conclusion that slavery (which exists in the absence of positive law, and is held to be legal) is a natural right - a constitutional right, to be protected and not suppressed by the Government; that the call for "non-extension" was an affair of mere sectional rivalry, without moral or constitutional sanction - a usurpation not to be endured; The laws of the human mind must be repealed before it will be safe for the friends of liberty to bring their cause before a thinking community on an issue like this. The extension of slavery must be opposed on the ground of its inherent criminality, its consequent illegality, its unconstitutionality, and the power of Congress over the whole subject, in all the States. Until this is done, "non-extension" has neither moral fulcrum nor constitutional lever.
California, be it remembered, owes not her freedom to the success of Federal "non-extension," either in the form of "Wilmot Proviso," or of refusal to admit a slave State. In no one instance, therefore, has the enterprise of "non-extension" triumphed. Most signally was it defeated in its attempt to shield California and the rest of the territory conquered from Mexico. California became a free State, in opposition to the action of the Federal Government, very nearly amounting to her exclusion from the Union, because, she was a free State! Nor was her freedom permitted by the Federal Government, but on condition of a "compromise," in which the Federal Government inflicted upon us the Fugitive Slave Bill, and a proviso against Wilmot Provisos for New-Mexico, Utah, and any new States that may be made out of Texas.
Until the friends of liberty had abandoned their aggressive position, by falling back upon the defensive ground of mere "non-extension," no, one ever dreamed of such a thing as the possibility of a violent and protracted debate in Congress, on the question whether a free State was entitled to be admitted into the. Union! Without such a change of position, it is not credible that any such phenomenon could have been witnessed. When an invading army ceases to be such - when it acts only on the defensive - when it retreats and falls back to a mere defense of its own territory, it naturally invites aggression, and becomes the object of sanguine and vigorous pursuit. Its battles thenceforward are for self-preservation, not for conquests. And such have been the battles of the Free-Soil party, by the manifestoes of its own leaders, disclaiming all thoughts of aggression, and calling on all the world to witness that they only acted on the defensive! The conquest of free territory by the slaveholders became easy, of course. They must have been blind not to have seen their advantage, and indifferent not to have improved it. The Kansas and Nebraska Bill prevailed against the North, because Divine Providence provides retributions for those who seek to maintain their own rights, without maintaining the equal rights of their neighbors. To all coming ages it will teach this great lesson. And the question of liberty for the present generation seems suspended on the question whether we can promptly learn that same lesson ourselves.
But whatever the "non-extension" movement may have done, or failed of doing, it is confessedly coming now to be numbered among the obsolete issues, along with "protective tariff" and "National Bank," except so far as the recovery of our lost territories is concerned. And even that, it would appear, embraces not sufficient attraction and hopefulness to keep the party together. Like other retreating armies, it has been broken in pieces, and its leaders are in a mood of discouragement, disagreed among themselves under what banner or upon what issue to rally. Even the forlorn alternative of falling into the ranks of a party founded on prejudices of race and caste - a party occupied chiefly with efforts to prevent the too rapid peopling of the free North with emigrants seeking free institutions - a party courting and obtaining the favor of proslavery propagandists - has been accepted by a majority of the Free-Soilers in old Massachussetts, and by large numbers of them in most or all of the free States. We dismiss, then, as an ascertained failure, the policy of relying on the expedient of mere non-extension.
Shall we demand a restoration of the Missouri compromise? This would seem to be the only plank of the old "non-extension" platform that is deemed of any special use at present; and it covers only the field last fought and lost by the Nebraska Bill. What has already been said of that platform in general applies to this plank in particular. It contains, in express terms, the same guilty "compromise with crime," on account of which the Missouri compromise was almost universally condemned thirty-five years ago. Restore the Missouri compromise? What! After having witnessed its thirty-five years’ bloody and iron sway over the whole nation - the nominally free as well as the enslaved?
The Missouri compromise, first spurned, then hated, then endured, then acquiesced in, and at length reverenced as sacred, became installed as the expounder of the Constitution it had violated, and at last was mistaken for a part of the Constitution itself. The Northern "dough-faces" (as John Randolph dubbed them) who had been base enough to consent to it, and had been driven by the votes of their constituents into obscurity, crawled forth, and with their enchantments transmuted the Missouri compromise into "the compromises of the Constitution," a phrase never before heard. The lie was repeated till it obtained credence, and the fetters of the nation were forged. Not a pro-slavery measure has been carried, from that day to this, that did not owe its success to a veneration of the supposed "sacred compact," or that did not fall back upon the precedent of the Missouri compromise. The resignation of Kansas and Nebraska into slavery furnishes no real exception to the statement. It was the result of the previous resignation of Missouri into slavery. Even the repeal of the Missouri compromise found justification by those very expositions of the Constitution which the Missouri compromise had inaugurated, and which recognized the constitutional right of slaveholding! Thus serpentine, thus slimy, thus ensnaring are the mazes of moral compromise. Thus demoralizing, thus deceptive, thus enslaving, thus Satanic are the constitutional expositions against which we are contending.
Restore the Missouri compromise! There are just three objections to the proposal. First, its transcendent wickedness. Second, its transparent folly. Third, its self-evident impossibility. It was wicked to make that compromise at first, and almost the entire North then cried out against its wickedness. How much more wicked must now be its restoration by the North, after its doings have developed its diabolism. It was folly to get decoyed into the trap when it was baited. It would be greater folly to get caught in it a second time, ay, to rush into it, uninvited, and that, too, after the bait has been snatched away. It was folly, in the first place, to be browbeaten into a bad bargain, but it would be much greater folly to attempt forcing the same bargain upon the same party, after he had broken it. It was folly, in the first place, to trust the promise of the South to respect our free territory, at the very moment that the South was forcing the bargain upon us by the threat that, unless we consented, the South would break its previous promise of fidelity to the Constitution and the Union! It would be greater folly to trust the South, after it has repudiated the obligations of the second promise, likewise. Such a piece of folly is too glaring to be consummated. Deceptions have their date. The arch-deceiver can not for ever deceive. There can be no restoration of the Missouri compromise, because the one party will not promise, and the other could not trust it, if it would. There are not fools enough at the North to be thus duped. A vote in Congress - could it be carried - could not restore the Missouri compromise. No! The day of compromises has gone by.
Were, it proposed - without any restoration of the compromise - to procure the Federal suppression of slavery in Kansas and Nebraska, for ever, whether as Territories or as States of the Union, (and nothing short of this would be worth contending for,) the measure, manifestly, would await the success of our proposed Federal suppression of slavery in all the country.
The ordinance of 1787, excluding slavery from the Northwestern Territory, may be cited, perhaps, as evidence of the potency of such restrictions. But the ordinance of 1787 was no '"compromise," and it involved none. It was formed before the dogma that THE NATION could not SUPPRESS SLAVERY had ever been heard of. It was a direct practical contradiction of that dogma. The ordinance has hitherto been effectual, because that dogma was never fully matured and acted upon until the passage of the Nebraska Bill. And that bill not only opened Kansas and Nebraska to slavery, but broke down the defenses of the entire North-western Territory. It was doubtless designed and expected to open Illinois to the ingress of slaves, in defiance of that ordinance, which is now openly declared to be of no force, as it can not be, unless the national power to suppress slaveholding be affirmed and maintained. The debates on the Nebraska Bill show this.
Shall we dissolve the Union? No. Not while we have Constitutional power to abolish slavery in the States. A secession of the non-slaveholding States, who hold this power, would be unnecessary - would be unwise - a dereliction of duty to the nation and to the enslaved.
It is not true, as some abolitionists argue, that it is preposterous and immoral to retain a political connection with slaveholders, in order to put down slaveholding. They sometimes demand of us whether we would maintain, a political connection with robbers to put down robbery, and with adulterers to put down adultery? We readily answer them, yes! This is precisely the thing we are doing in respect to all crimes. Civil government is founded on this very idea. It is the political connection of the community with criminals that enables the community to suppress crime. The argument is as good for disbanding the State governments as it is for dissolving the Union. It is in effect an argument against civil government in all its diversified forms - an argument against the suppression of slavery even by the slave States; and against all compulsory suppression of any crime.
The political remedy of "dissolution" derives all its plausibility from the false assumptions that we have no national government with powers to "establish justice" and "secure the blessings of liberty" - that we have only a confederacy of States - that these States are absolutely independent sovereignties, are clothed with despotic powers, and may "pass bills of attainder, ex-post facto laws, laws impairing the obligations of contracts" - that they may "deprive men of liberty without due process of law," despoil them of "the right to be secure in their persons," subject them to "unreasonable searches and seizures," establish orders of "nobility," and set up anti-"republican forms of government" - against all which the government of "the United States," by the Constitution, can afford no protection or "guaranty." All these assumptions are, notoriously, the exact opposites of the existing facts.
The American nation is responsible for American slavery. It is sustained by the nation. It is a national sin, and nothing short of a national prohibition and suppression of it will discharge our national responsibilities, or redeem our national character.
The non-slaveholding States share in national responsibilities, and are involved in the guilt of slavery. And now that the retributive justice of God is beginning to visit upon them their iniquities, it becomes them to "undo the heavy burdens, and break every yoke." In the sight of God and of the civilized world, they have no moral right to dissolve the partnership now, and retire, leaving the slaves in their chains - the chains they have assisted to forge, when it is in their power to deliver them, by the simple use of their votes. The same ballot-box that has been their instrument of oppression; should now be made their instrument of deliverance from that oppression. It is neither manly nor Christian to shirk the duty, by saying that if the Union were dissolved, the slaves would assert their own freedom, or that if the props of the system were withdrawn, it would fall by its own weight. If all this were more clear than it now is, the duty of the non-slaveholding States, as being a majority of the nation, to "proclaim liberty throughout the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof" would not be discharged by seceding. It would NOT be "immediate, and unconditional emancipation" It would be a postponement to an uncertain and contingent future. Instead of the "abolition of slavery," it would be leaving slavery to die out of itself. Instead of directly and immediately abolishing slavery, it would only be doing something which it is, judged would work out its extinction. It would be committing over again (but with less prospects of impunity) the error attributed to our fathers, and on account of which they are now so uncharitably charged with the hypocrisy of professing to seek the extinction of slavery while their intentions were in the opposite direction. Those who thus charge them should be doubly cautious of falling into the same error. Our fathers probably did as much against slavery as could have been done without actually suppressing it.
We deem it easier to abolish slavery, and thus preserve the Union, than to dissolve the Union, leaving the future extinction of slavery uncertain. The Constitution provides amply for liberation, but makes no provision for dissolution. Dissolution would be revolutionary. Liberation would only be the constitutional administration of the existing government, for its original and declared ends. An amendment of the Constitution (either for purposes of abolition or disunion) would require the assent of three fourths of the States. The vote to abolish slavery requires the action of only one-half of them. A vote to dissolve the Union, on account of slavery, requires a strong public sentiment against it. Whenever that sentiment exists, it will prefer to abolish slavery, and leave the Union untouched. If abolition be the object, abolition should and probably will be the work performed. Dissolve the Union, on this issue, and you delude the people of the free States with the false notion that their responsibilities have ceased, though the slaves remain in bondage. Who shall stand up as deliverers, then?
We seem shut up, therefore, to the alternatives of abolition or of subjugation, and can not hesitate in the selection. We demand the liberation of the enslaved - the security of the free - the deliverance of our entire country.
Tell us not that the petty oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders among twenty-four millions of people, they and their families* [* estimated at one million and a half ] composing one sixteenth part of the nation, and intermingled, too, with three millions and a half of slaves—tell us not that they would resist and produce CIVIL WAR. (That objection, by-the-by, if valid, is still more conclusive against the project of leaving the slaves to work out their deliverance alone!) A Federal abolition of slavery would encounter less proportionate resistance than the execution of the Prohibitory Liquor Law of New-York. The rum-sellers might count upon the assistance of many of their victims. The slaveholders will count upon no assistance from theirs.
The day of "compromises" with slavery has gone by, and can never return. Slavery itself abjures and repudiates compromise! The same Divine Providence that watched over the anti-slavery cause from the beginning, that shielded, it from violence, that gave it utterance amid the strife of tongues, that pioneered and seconded its agitations and confirmed its testimonies by a series of startling disclosures, that led it out of obscurity into the daylight of national discussion, - that same Divine Providence, still ruling in the midst of its enemies, and confounding their counsels, has wrought out this DELIVERANCE FROM COMPROMISE, at a time when it was least expected, through instrumentalities that seemed most unpromising, and in a manner that, for a time, has shrouded the victory with the dark mantle of apparent defeat. Divine Providence never works more effectually than through the wrath of opposers - never more gloriously than in the darkness of midnight - nevermore triumphantly than when brave hearts are quaking with apprehension - never more decisively than when hope seems extinguished. It is ever upon her cross of crucifixion that Christianity achieves her great conquests. The very moment in which the powers of hell are seen to crush out her life-blood, is the moment in which she sublimely responds - "It is finished!" It is ever from her sepulchre that she ascends, leading captivity captive, and showering, down her choicest gifts upon men. Her pentecostal visitations come to refresh desponding disciples, whose fond hopes have been blasted, and who pensively say, "We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel."
If the passage of the Nebraska Bill was the crucifixion of liberty, it was the needful condition of its restored and more glorious life. If Kansas proves its sepulchre, it shall prove, likewise, the scene of its triumphant resurrection. If the repeal of the Missouri compromise removed what we now know to be the unreal, the deceptive defenses of northern liberty, it removed likewise the real, the only effectual political defenses of southern slavery. If it left the North open to southern invasion with the bowie-knife, it left the South open to northern invasion by the ballot-box. If it inflamed with increased recklessness, the mania of' pro-slavery propagandism, it is inspiring with fresh courage the aggressive spirit of anti-slavery liberation! If it rouses the South to extend the conflagration, it shall rouse the North (not to limit but) to extinguish it!
It is only from the false stand-point of a pro-slavery Constitutional construction, that the repeal of the Missouri compromise appears a calamity. And nothing but blind and persistent adherence to that false construction can make it a calamity. If the Constitution did, indeed, give up to the petty oligarchy of slaveholders the right of the nation to protect liberty, we might perhaps lament the repudiation of their very reliable promise of gracious forbearance - of potent protection! But, from the stand-point of a sound anti-slavery construction of the Constitution, we see, at once, that the repudiation of compromise, by their own free act and consent, puts the weapon of constitutional liberation into our own hands. With the southern repudiation of their own Missouri compromise, all compromises with slavery are, henceforward, exploded. The Nation and the North stand just where they would have done, had the word "compromise" never been lisped or penned. The "compromises of the Constitution" were all wrapped up in the Missouri compromise, or pinned to its trail. And all these are now swept away.
The Southern conception of "the compromises," is in process of exposition in Kansas. It may be read, too, in the law-suit of Virginia versus New-York - as well as in the choice for Governor of Henry A. Wise. The slaveholders can not complain if we construe "the compromises" just as they construe them. Whenever we do so we shall regard them as extinct. The North, the nation, and every man in them both, individually and socially, may assert their original natural rights. The natural right to liberty and the natural right of slaveholding must now adjust themselves, without "compromise," as they best may. "God speed the right!"
For upwards of thirty years - the life-time of one entire human generation - the Northern heart, the Northern conscience, the Northern love of liberty, had been suffocated by the Missouri compromise. That master-piece of satanic subtlety and imposture had brooded all that time over the nation, deceiving, deluding, seducing, and poisoning its millions - expounding for them the Constitution and the Bible, stifling, as far as possible, all manly aspiration, tying up manly hands, putting its veto on all wise measures, lending its aid to all nefarious projects. During all that dark and guilty period, the sacred obligations of pro-slavery compromises were held paramount to all other obligations. Even friends of liberty felt bound to abide by them - nay, cherished them as their safeguards from aggression!
Without irreverence, we may inquire how infinite goodness and wisdom itself could have undeceived, unfettered, disabused, instructed and aroused the people of this great nation, and so guided and assisted them as to have led them to assert and maintain their freedom, without a process that should have included, at some point, a repeal of the Missouri compromise? And how could it have been otherwise, or more naturally, or more beneficially accomplished than it has been? Could the friends of liberty have been persuaded to unite for that object? If united, could they have accomplished it? We see how it was done and by whom. The deed, in its object and design, on the part of the slaveholders and their abetters was indeed a most atrocious, a most diabolical one. "They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." The cheatery of the Missouri compromise is exposed - the imposture is detected - the incubus is removed - the strongest of all the fetters ever forged by the Slave Power is broken. The North may now breathe freely and stand erect. No "compromise" now binds her. The nation, the national government, the office bearer, and the voter, may, at last, stand erect. No "compact," whether deemed "sacred" or infernal, now holds them. No code of honor, false or otherwise, can bind them to the repudiators of compromise. 'The covenant with death is disannulled: the agreement with hell could not stand. The hail has swept away the refuge of lies! The waters have overflowed the hiding-place!'
Most evidently there could have been no rational hope for freedom, unless that unrighteous compromise was broken up. This great preparatory work is now accomplished. We hail it as the most encouraging event that has transpired since the Missouri compromise was formed - the most signal of all the providential interferences in our favor since the present struggle commenced - the greatest national deliverance we expect to witness until that final overthrow of American slavery by the people and government of America, which, we are persuaded, it is destined to accelerate. If the friends of liberty are true to their trust, and awake to the advantages of their new position, they may expect to see the work rolling forward rapidly.
The times are auspicious. The darkness is receding. Even the blind are beginning to see men as trees walking. And those who but yesterday saw indistinctly are now beginning to see clearly. The character of slavery is now seen and felt by hundreds of thousands whose attention was first effectually roused by the passage of the Nebraska Bill. Many others, who had hesitated, are now firm and decided. Those once bound by the "compromises," are now breathing freely. With the disappearance of the Missouri compromise, all other pro-slavery "compromises" are fading into thin air. Not a few are discovering that they had mistaken the Missouri compromise for the Constitution, or had strangely jumbled them together. On missing the former, they began to look after "the compromises" of the latter, when, to their astonishment and delight, they could find no trace of them. Or if, for a moment, these compromises seemed to linger about the clause concerning "persons held to service and labor," one or two fugitive slave cases brushed them away. Putting their souls in the fugitive's soul's stead, they soon learned that nothing could be "due" from slaves, from mere chattels; and that the provision could not, by any possibility, apply to their case. There then remained only the "apportionment of representatives" clause, describing aliens, and not slaves, even if there were (as there are not) any legal slaves to whom it could apply.
Silent but rapid changes are taking place. Old Hunkers, Silver Greys, conservatists of all names, are unconsciously relaxing their conservatism, and, like the tapering spire, becoming "beautifully less." Party lines are disappearing. The two old pro-slavery parties, recently so powerful, seem falling in pieces. The Northern branch of each of them exhibits gaping seams or rent fragments. The new party, only a few months old, yet beginning to swallow up the older ones, encounters similar difficulties, becomes rotten before ripe, and declines before half reaching the meridian. A national party without a distinct creed on the slave question, is becoming an acknowledged impossibility. Pro-slavery and anti-slavery can no longer live in the same party. The party, too, however named, of "freedom national, and slavery sectional," seems almost equally confused and disorganized. Its work, if not done, seems likely to remain undone. Its issues are becoming obsolete. It touches not the core of the evil. It meets not the demands of the times. It satisfies not the wants of the people. It grasps not, firmly, the public conscience. It kindles, not the popular enthusiasm. It expects not great things. It attempts not great things. Of course it accomplishes not great things. The expectation of enlisting larger numbers, by taking a moderate, middle course, has been disappointed. The attempt to organize a mere anti-Nebraska movement, being still more moderate, has still more signally failed. The public mind, though still hesitant, vague, indeterminate, and thoughtful, can not be roused to action on half issues. It is waiting for something more. It is reserving its strength for an occasion worthy of being put forth. The slumbering Hercules will not be roused to the hunting of a fly - the pruning of a limb - the recovery of a lost fraction. BUT IT WILL BE ROUSED. Coming issues can not but rouse it. Already the under-swell is apparent. The friends of liberty - the people at large - are ahead of their leaders, and it will yet be found that "leaders must lead." THE TRUE ISSUES MUST BE PRESENTED. But what are they? Dissolution? Revolution? Abolition? Nothing short of these alternatives can interest the public mind much longer. One of the three we must have. Which shall it be? The Constitution must help us to determine We only ask that it be thoroughly interrogated, and its true answer heard. If it says the nation has no power of self-protection, no power to shelter its subjects from enslavers, then give us REVOLUTION, or, if that can not be, DISSOLUTION. But if it says otherwise, then give us NATIONAL ABOLITION, by the power of the ballot-box.
Great conclusions are to be reached speedily. The destinies of ages to come are to be determined by them. We are to be a free and. united people; or we are to be a dismembered, and, to a greater extent than now, an enslaved people. Which shall it be?
The views we advocate are gaining ground rapidly. From almost every part of the free States, there come enthusiastic expressions of them. Non-extensionists are conceding the insufficiency of mere non-extension. There are leaders of that movement who regret now that the aggressive policy was ever abandoned.
The soil is preparing for us. Let us hasten to throw in the good seed. "He that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."
We see encouragements where they who hold other constitutional views find only discouragements. We take fresh courage from the repeal of the Missouri compromise, from the certain failure of all efforts for its restoration, from the complete failure of the compromising policy of mere "non-extension," from the disbanding of the organized forces of that policy, from the discouragement of its once sanguine leaders. We could have wished that they, long ago, had been discouraged from travelling further in their wrong road. If "non-extension" had achieved all it ever attempted, (including, as it would have done, the national surrendry of half the nation to slavery,) the victory would have been a most calamitous one. Every wise general knows that a victory may be purchased too dearly. Of all providential deliverances, those call loudest for gratitude that deliver us from ourselves. We congratulate our "non-extension'' friends on their propitious disappointments. We call on them to gather encouragement out of discouragements, to weave victories out of defeats. The failure of a misdirected campaign has, many a time, suggested the plan of a future and a triumphant one. An opportunity is now presented to the non-extensionists for correcting their mistake. All they ever sought, and much more than they dared attempt, may now be secured by other methods. Instead of aiming to save and yet failing to save, but the Territories and new States, they may now aim to save and actually save the whole nation.
In the use of another figure, the case may be stated thus: The car of freedom, in the night time, was, somehow, switched off, upon the wrong track. The higher the steam, the farther it diverged from its proper course. Its progress was arrested by an obstacle most villainously thrown across the track. But the intended injury may be made a benefit. On the return of daylight, the train may be run back, and be put upon the right track.
We repine not at the past. We reproach no one for mistakes. We give full credit for honest enterprise. We gratefully receive and appreciate all its real benefits. If non-extension, as a distinct enterprise, has failed of securing its specific object, it has disclosed the cause, not only of its own failure, but of all our defeats and failures, hitherto. The cause of failure, thus detected, is easily overcome. If its purely defensive policy invited aggressions, and occasioned pro-slavery conquests, it has thereby unmasked the monster and aroused and rallied new forces to resist him. If that policy brought upon us an unprecedented struggle for the admission of a free State, it thereby showed our people the nature and aims of slavery. It has compelled us to learn the secret by which 300,000 slaveholders can rise, as they did in that struggle, above the National Government, usurp its powers, and wield them against liberty. If that policy gave us the Fugitive Slave Bill, it also gave to the North an occasion to nullify or resist that infamous bill. Moreover, it gave us occasion for reviving the study of the Constitution, and of the principles of Constitutional exposition, and for learning important lessons in the sublime science of law. If that policy gave us the Nebraska Bill, it gave us, along with it, the repeal of the Missouri compromise, and the abrogation of all compromises. If, too, it originated, and was prosecuted under the mistake that the Constitution contains "compromises," and that compromises were unavoidable, it has done much to explode the idea of such compromises, and to render them impossible in future. And if it was founded on the error that the nation has no power to protect national liberty, that the Federal Government has no power to protect its citizens against enslavers, it has brought the whole North into a position in which that error must soon be exploded, or in which it must be admitted that our boasted "free institutions" are of no value!
Let all the friends of liberty, therefore, thank God, and take courage. Let all Americans examine the Constitution of their country, and learn whether its institutions are republican or despotic, - whether they themselves are freemen or slaves. If free, let them preserve their freedom, and prove their humanity, by "proclaiming liberty to the captives;" - if slaves, let them unite with their brethren in bonds, and establish a government that can protect all.
Resolved, 1. That experience has now fully proved that there is no way to get rid of the evils of slavery, but by getting rid of the existence of slavery - no successful method of resisting the encroachments of slavery but by the overthrow of slavery - and no appropriate plan or measure for SECURING the abolition of slavery, but by ABOLISHING it.
2. That we, therefore, reject as useless, all schemes for limiting, localizing, confining, or ameliorating slavery - all plans for protecting the non-slaveholding States from the aggressions of slavery, and from the liability of becoming overspread and overborne by it - which do not look, directly, to the immediate and unconditional prohibition and suppression of slavery in all parts of the country.
3. That we regard as impracticable and visionary, all attempts to get rid of slavery, either by forbidding the importation of slaves, or by favoring the exportation of colored persons - either by starving out slavery, or leaving it to die out - by merely withdrawing from it our support - or by a dissolution of the Union - all which attempts, however intended, we deem to be virtually evasive of our great national duty to "undo the heavy burdens" and to "break every yoke."
4. "That there are, at the present time, the highest obligations resting on the people of the free States, to remove slavery, by moral and political action, as prescribed by the Constitution of the United States."
5. That the question whether the Constitution tolerates slavery in the United. States, is, in other words, the question whether the liberties of the country can, under the Constitution, and without a violent revolution, be preserved.
6. That the constitutional question, therefore, demands the speedy and earnest attention of the friends of the slave - of the friends of general liberty - of the friends of republican institutions - of the friends of peace.
7. That "inasmuch as non-extensionists" or "Free Soilers would, we doubt not, exchange their present position for that of direct and general abolition, if they understood that the Constitution warrants that measure: - and that inasmuch as those abolitionists who now advocate ''disunion" would also change their position, in like manner, if they understood the Constitution as we do; we do therefore earnestly and respectfully invite both these classes to examine, laboriously and impartially, the whole subject, and not think their time unprofitably spent, in so doing.
8. That it becomes us all to be jealous of those expositions of the Constitution, in its bearings on slavery, which have been given to us by inveterate slaveholders - and which have grown up and been developed with the rise, growth, and increasing aggressions of the Slave Power.
9. That if, when expounding the Constitution, we bear in mind, that at the time it was formed (as well as before and since) there was no legalized slavery in the country, to be recognized or provided for - and that all the States except Massachusetts, were at that time slaveholding States - though in all of them the speedy extinction of slavery was expected - we shall feel how utterly groundless: is the prevalent idea that the forming of the American Union was attended by a struggle and by compromises between the North and the South on the slave question.
10. That we have a right to demand that the Constitution be expounded by the same rules of legal interpretation that, by common consent, control the exposition of all similar instruments and all human laws, the same rules that do control the exposition of the Constitution itself when the interests of slavery do not forbid it!
11. That we deeply feel, and would heartily reiterate the appeals so often addressed to the friends of liberty, admonishing them to act in concert, to present an unbroken front, and not suffer themselves to be divided, when all the forces of slavery are combining to crush them" - yet we feel still more deeply, and must urge still more strongly, the absolute necessity of uniting in a PRACTICAL enterprise, one that has not already been tried and found impossible - one that we do not feel well assured, before hand, can never be carried; or that being carried, would leave the slavery question, substantially, where it now is - the slave still in his chains, his friends dissevered from him, disabled, discouraged, and powerless.
12. That whether there be few or many of the friends of liberty, who unite on the true ground, the power of the Anti-Slavery movement will be, mainly and emphatically, with them; and they will pioneer the way for others who will come after them. Thus it was in the temperance cause, in which those who stood almost alone in advocating radical measures, though derided as "impracticables" were afterwards found to have pointed out the only practicable course.
13. That while we believe much in moral suasion, as persuading to efficient action, we also insist that, without such action, it loses its value.
14. That, in the suppression of crimes against society, moral suasion and political action must go hand in hand - and that this truth, once spurned from the temperance ranks, but afterwards welcomed, is destined to find similar favor with the hosts of freedom, and to achieve still more glorious triumphs.
15. Resolved, That since the prevailing religion of a country, or its want of religion, decides, of necessity, its political ethics, and thus determines its destiny, we earnestly implore the cooperation of all Christians and Christian ministers, in our holy work of liberating the enslaved; and we would remind the friends of liberty of the importance of maintaining a consistent position in their ecclesiastical as well as political relations.
16. Whereas, The non-slaveholding planters of the South deserve the sympathies of abolitionists - and whereas those sympathies can, in many cases, be most effectually extended through the medium of commerce, therefore
Resolved, That it is desirable to manifest our sympathies for such planters, by encouraging the culture of free labor productions, in preference to those produced by the labor of slaves.
17. Resolved, That we regard the German settlers in Texas and elsewhere who are cultivating the soil by their own free labor, as especially deserving our approbation; and the eight hundred bales of cotton produced in Texas last year, as an indisputable argument for free labor in the South.
18. That we look with interest upon all well directed efforts, in the non-slaveholding States, for raising products that may successfully compete with slave products: and we regard it as particularly desirable that the culture and manufacture of flax by freemen, should, if possible, be brought into successful competition with slave-grown cotton.
19. Resolved, That our enterprise calls for liberal and self-denying sacrifices, both of labor and money - that the largest liberality, in this case, will prove the most rigid economy in the end; and that, with the divine blessing on our liberality and labors, a judicious and timely expenditure of HALF A MILLION of dollars, in a peaceful struggle, at the ballot-box, to preserve and regain liberty, would probably save a hundredfold that sum, and countless lives, in efforts to preserve and regain it by violence.
20. Resolved, That recognizing, as we do, the fact of MAN'S EQUALITY, as the foundation principle, which underlies the Anti-Slavery movement, we abhor, and will use our every effort to annihilate, that abominable spirit of caste, the development of which is calculated to crush the energy of the colored man, however aspiring, drive him from the land of his birth, and put far off the "good time, coming."
21. Resolved, That, as Abolitionists, it is our duty to practice in our lives, what we profess with our lips; and therefore, we will, by our example, prove the vincibility of that prejudice against color, which, in this country, drives the colored man from the workshop, the counting-room, and the polls, making him a hissing and a by-word, a miserable outcast, the off-scouring of the earth.
22. Resolved, That, as Radical Abolitionists, we can not shut our eyes to the peril which the cause of freedom endures in Kansas, nor to the faithfulness to the common cause manifested by those who have thrown themselves as a bulwark of freemen into that territory; and we call upon all who sympathize with us and with them to contribute as God may direct, to aid those noble men by an accession to their numbers, and to the means whereby they may be permanently established in their new home.
23. Resolved, That we consider it the duty of the Legislatures of the several States, to pass laws forbidding, under heavy penalties, the arrest of any person as a fugitive slave, or under the so-called Fugitive Slave Bill.
24. Resolved, That this Convention recommend the organization of efficient committees in every county or congressional district, whose duty it shall be to raise funds, by holding public meetings, or otherwise, for defraying the legal expenses and liquidating the fines of such persons as may be prosecuted for violations of the Fugitive Slave Bill.
FIRST DAY - MORNING SESSION.
The Convention of Political Abolitionists assembled at the City Hall in the City of Syracuse at 10 o'clock, June 26, 1855. The Convention was called to order by Gerrit Smith, of New-York, who moved for a temporary organization.
James McCune Smith, N. Y., Chairman.
Hezekiah D. Sharpe, N. Y., Secretary.
Prayer was offered by Mr. Cook, of Illinois.
The following committees were appointed:
William Goodell, N. Y.,
C. G. Foote, Mich.,
Samuel McFarland, Penn.,
J. W. North, Minn.,
A. B. Burdick, E.I,
Gerrit Smith, N. Y.,
Fred. Douglass, N.Y.,
Timothy B. Hudson, Ohio.
Gerrit Smith, N. Y.,
Samuel McFarland, Penn.,
Lewis Tappan, N. Y.,
J. W. Loguen, N Y.,
John Thomas, N Y.
J. C. Harrington, N. Y.,
Robert Furman, N Y.,
Abram Pryne, N. Y.
William Goodell, N. Y., chairman of the Business Committee reported that a series of papers were in possession of the Committee, a portion of which would be read.
Gerrit Smith, chairman of the Finance Committee, reported as follows:
1. The Committee on Finance report that, in their judgment, monthly contributions of money to promote the peaceful abolition of the whole system of American slavery, by means of moral and political agency, should be called for, as far as practicable, in every part of the nation. To this end the Committee would have the friends of such agency, in every ward, village, and township, appoint a Treasurer to solicit and receive such contributions, and to forward them to the General Treasurer in the city of New-York.
2. The Committee recommend that this plan be reduced to practice as speedily as possible; and that the local Treasurers make their first remittance on or near the first day of next August. A form of subscription is herewith submitted. A x under any month opposite any name will indicate that the payment for that month is made.
3. The Committee further recommend that a Central Abolition Board be appointed by this Convention, to be composed of nine persons, residing in the city of New-York or its neighborhood, who shall hold their office until an election by the National Abolition Convention, and five of whom. shall constitute a quorum. This Board shall appoint the General Treasurer, and shall have the discretionary use of all the moneys which shall come into his hands. At the expiration of every six months, it shall publicly report its disposition of such moneys. It is expected that these moneys will be nearly all expended in aid of lecturers and presses which advocate the abolition construction of the Federal Constitution, and the impossibility of legalizing slavery.
4. The Committee also recommend, that a National Abolition Convention be held (in the city of Cleveland) on the day of next in aid of the measures and objects of the present Convention, and that one of the duties of the said National Abolition Convention shall be to elect members of the Central Abolition Board to supply the place of those elected by the present Convention. That the blanks in this resolution be filled by the Central Abolition Board.
6. The Committee do further recommend that the Central Abolition Board pay William Goodell one hundred dollars, ($100) in consideration of the great amount of time which he has bestowed upon the preparation of the able papers submitted by him to this Convention.
The report was accepted.
J. C. Harrington, chairman of Nominating Committee, reported as follows:
President - James McCune Smith, N. Y.
Vice-Presidents - C. C. Foote, Mich.; Amos Dresser, Ohio; Charles G. Case, N.Y.; Lewis Tappan, N. Y.; Samuel McFarland, Penn.
Secretaries - L. C. Matlack, N. Y., George W. Clark, N. Y.
Committee on the Order of Arrangements for the Meeting - J. W. Loguen, John Thomas, Montgomery Merrick.
Report accepted and on motion adopted by the Convention.
Gerrit Smith, of the Business Committee on Resolutions reported resolutions Nos. 1 - 19 inclusive. Report accepted.
William Goodell further reported from the Business Committee a Declaration of Sentiments. It was received. (See page 5.)
By general consent, Gerrit Smith read a letter from the venerable Chief-Justice Hutchinson, of Vermont. One also from Mr. Taft was announced as in his possession. Another from George W. Brown, editor of the Herald of Freedom, Lawrence, Kansas, was read.
Voted to adjourn, to meet at 2 P.M.
Prayer by Mr. Loguen, of Syracuse.
Amos Dresser, of Ohio, and Lewis Tappan, of N. Y., were added to the list of Vice-Presidents.
The finance report was taken up, read, and laid on the table.
The call of the Convention was then read.
The Declaration of Sentiments was again read. A motion was then made that the word "annihilation" be stricken out, and the words, "outrageous aggression upon human rights," be substituted. Lost.
It was moved to prefix the word "practically" to "annihilation." Withdrawn.
Discussions continued on the Declaration, by A. B. Burdick, E. J. Cook, of Ill., Charles Stuart, of Canada, Gerrit Smith, A. Pryne, —— Caswell, Melancthon B. Williams, Beriah Green, Lewis Tappan, of N. Y.
Moved by Gerrit Smith to amend the Declaration with these words: "Nay more, we hold that the government which annihilates instead of protecting human rights, should be known, not as civil government, but only as a conspiracy - an usurpation." Carried.
George W. Clark was called on for a song, and sang of the "Better Time Coming."
A motion to adjourn at 5 1/2 and meet again at 7 1/2 prevailed.
The amendment to the Declaration of Sentiments proposed by Gerrit Smith was taken up. The general discussion was continued during the evening. The amendment was adopted with but one dissenting vote.
The Declaration of Sentiments was adopted without dissent.
Adjourned to meet at 9 A.M.
The Convention was opened with prayer by Melancthon B. Williams. The minutes of the first day were read.
Moved to amend the minute by adding the name of Timothy B. Hudson, of Ohio, to the Business Committee - carried.
Moved to amend by leaving off "Rev's." and-"Hon's." from the name of persons recorded - carried.
The report on Finance was taken up for consideration.
Paragraphs 1 and 2 were adopted unanimously; 3, amended verbally and adopted; 4, amended by leaving time and place of the next Convention both blank, providing also that these blanks are to be filled by the Central Board; 5, read and adopted unanimously; 6, read and adopted by a rising vote, which was explained to be a pledge to contribute regularly to the funds. (See Report.)
The following names were appointed as the Central Committee provided for:
Arthur Tappan, Wm. Goodell, J. McCune Smith, S. S. Jocelyn, W. E. Whiting, 37 Broadway, E. V. Clarke, Lewis Tappan, George Whipple, Samuel Wilde.
Wm. Goodell offered the following resolution:
Resolved, As the sense of this Convention, that the National Abolition Convention to be held in pursuance of the action of this Convention, would do well to consider the question of organizing a permanent NATIONAL ABOLITION SOCIETY, covering the entire field of moral, political, and ecclesiastical action, and, if thought advisable, to proceed to the organizing of such a society. - Adopted.
Adjourned to meet at 2 P.M.
Opened, with prayer by Abram Pryne.
Wm. Goodell, aided by Gerrit Smith, read "An Address to the people of the United States."
Lewis Tappan moved that the Address be adopted, published, and circulated under the direction of the Central Abolition Board. Carried.
The resolutions were then taken up.
Resolution 1, amended. - "existence of slavery" for "fact" - adopted.
Resolutions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, were read and taken up together. Their discussion occupied the remainder of the afternoon session.
After a song by G. W. Clarke, the Convention adjourned to 7 1/2 o'clock.
Met at 7 1/2 o'clock. Prayer by Charles Stuart. Letters were read from Arthur Tappan, of N. Y., Hiram Pitts, of Ill., Benjamin Hancock, of N. Y. Discussion on the Resolutions resumed by Lewis Tappan, Beriah Green, Gerrit Smith, John Caswell, Dr. J. McCune Smith, Ansel Bascom, and others. A collection was taken up, amounting to $41.30. A song was called for from G. W. Clark, after which the Convention adjourned to 9 o'clock to-morrow morning.
Opened with prayer by Gerrit Smith. The minutes of the morning session of the second day were read.
A communication was read by Lewis Tappan, from sundry persons of Brooklyn.
Moved to appoint a Committee of three by the chair, to whom the communication shall be referred, with power to report thereon. A. B. Burdick, L. Tappan, W. E. Whiting, were appointed.
Mr. Olds, of Jamaica, an American Missionary, addressed the Convention on the subject of the emancipated, and plans for their improvement.
The minutes of the afternoon and evening session were now read, and the whole approved.
Gerrit Smith read letters from Jacob Lybrand, of Iowa, and John Pierpont, of Massachusetts. Letters to Mr. Brown from his sons in Kansas, of whom he has five, tried and true. These letters gave sad information of the annoyances, and perils, too, that surround the emigrant to Kansas.
The Business Committee came in, announcing the possession of sundry papers, ready to be reported.
Mr. John Brown addressed the Convention. He appealed for men and means to defend freedom in Kansas. His remarks deeply stirred the hearts of the audience. Abram Pryne responded in earnest remarks in sympathy with the appeal. Lewis Tappan disclaimed all sympathy with the war spirit as an auxiliary to the cause of abolition.
Wm. Goodell, from the Business Committee, reported "An Exposition of the Constitutional Duty of the United States to abolish Slavery in the States." Also resolutions Nos. 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. They were received.
The President read a letter from John McIntosh and twenty more in sympathy with the Convention.
The resolutions under consideration, at the adjournment were again resumed.
D. I. Robinson, H. D. Sharpe, Beriah Green, Gerrit Smith, and others, continued their discussion.
Adjourned to 2 P.M.
Opened with prayer by Lewis Tappan.
Mr. North, from Iowa, addressed the Convention on the resolutions under discussion.
By general consent, A. B. Burdick, from the Special Committee, reported, and their report was adopted, and was referred to the Central Abolition Board.
Wm. Goodell addressed the Convention on the subject of the United States Constitution, during the main part of the afternoon session.
Voted, that the Convention have an evening session.
Gerrit Smith, S. J. May, and others, continued the discussion. The entire series of resolutions were adopted.
Adjourned to 7 1/2.
Opened with prayer by Samuel J. May.
Mr. Lewis Tappan moved that the monthly paper entitled the “American Jubilee" published in New-York City by Wm. Goodell, be recommended to every abolitionist in the country as an able, argumentative and interesting paper, and as one that should be widely circulated throughout the country.
And we further recommend that the local societies hereafter to be organized shall engage in a systematic effort for its gratuitous circulation in their several neighborhoods. Adopted.
The discussion of the above was engaged in with great interest by Douglass, Matlack, Watkins, and others.
On motion of Gerrit Smith it was
Resolved, That the thanks of this Convention be given to Dr. James McCune Smith for the ability, urbanity and impartiality with which he has presided over this Convention.
Frederick Douglass and Lewis Tappan took occasion to offer some appropriate remarks complimentary to President Smith, which were responded to heartily, and the resolution adopted by acclamation.
Following this vote, the President addressed himself to Vice-President Tappan, and characterized the Convention as filling up the measure of his ideal of a glorious enterprise, prompted by the noblest motives that can bear sway in the human heart. "Twenty years ago," said the speaker, "with you, sir, and others, around me, I sat with you and them on the platform at the anniversary meeting in the New-York Tabernacle. Of those then present some are not. They have gone to plead for the slave before the throne of One whose ear is ever open to hear the cause of the poor. But some are yet with us. Their youth is renewed while toiling on in this service, and they seem likely to realize the full fruit of one of the precious promises of religion, in finding their life prolonged in the land which the Lord their God giveth them.
"But," continued Mr. Smith, "I cannot say much. This I will add. I came here from a distant city for the same purpose that I left the same city twenty years ago, and journeyed 3000 miles - and that was to breathe a free atmosphere. (The speaker graduated in a European university.) For there are spots where all men can breathe freely. Syracuse is one of those places. And I trust that from the noble position already occupied, our friends here will advance higher and higher, until all the soil shall be consecrated to human freedom - and slaveholders find out that they do not hold the title-deeds to any lands in Syracuse.
We have come here sir, to inaugurate a great movement. And the results thus far, and the promise now before us; fully justify the large hopes of those who looked forward to this gathering. And we shall all go hence to proclaim the gospel of liberty - for it is good news, glad tidings of great joy, that we have to tell. Here, the stone which the builders have rejected has been sought out and is become the head of the corner. Such indeed may we fittingly designate the Constitution of the United States, now wrested from the grasp of pro-slavery constructionists, and relieved from the filth and slime and dirt of their foul interpretations. Now, sir, we have a cornerstone, a foundation, a basis strong enough to bear the weight of the abolition cause. Mr. Smith concluded his remarks amid the most rapturous applause.
It was then voted that the thanks of this Convention be tendered to the first Secretary (L. C. Matlack) and the Assistant Secretary for their faithful services, and to G. W. Clarke for his entertaining and inspiring songs during the Convention.
Voted to adjourn without date.
L. C. MATLACK, G. W. Clarke, Secretaries.
To the Abolitionists of the United States:
A CONVENTION of ''RADICAL POLITICAL ABOLITIONISTS" was held at Syracuse, New-York, on the 26th, 27th, and 28th days of June, 1855, (James McCune Smith, President, L. C. Matlack, and G. W. Clarke, Secretaries,) at which measures were taken to organize anew the Radical Abolitionists of the country, and to raise funds for prosecuting, with renewed vigor, the claims of immediate and unconditional abolition. A resolution was adopted recommending the holding of another Convention to consider and act upon the question of organizing a permanent NATIONAL ABOLITION SOCIETY to take charge of the great enterprise. And, in the interim, the trust was committed to a CENTRAL ABOLITION COMMITTEE at New-York, consisting of the following persons, namely: Arthur Tappan, William Goodell, J. McCune Smith, S. S. Jocelyn, W. E. Whiting, E. V. Clarke, Lewis Tappan, George Whipple, and Samuel Wilde, who were authorized to receive and disburse funds for the object above mentioned, and to be expended chiefly "in aid of lecturers and presses which advocate the abolition construction of the Federal Constitution, and the impossibility of legalizing slavery."
A plan of monthly subscriptions, (reported by a Committee of which Gerrit Smith was chairman) was adopted by the Convention, and during its sittings, upwards of $4600 per annum were subscribed by the members, in the hope of raising five or ten times that amount within a few months, by subscriptions from different parts of the country.
The Committee have commenced publishing a monthly paper (the "Radical Abolitionist") devoted to the objects of the Convention, and intend to employ lecturers to as great an extent as suitable lecturers can be found, and the means provided for their support.
The Convention recommended that the friends of this measure, "in every ward, village, and township, appoint a Treasurer to solicit and receive contributions, and to forward them to the general Treasurer in the city of New-York;" that "this plan be reduced to practice as speedily as practicable, in every part of the nation,"—that "the local Treasurers make their first remittance on or near the first of August," and so on, each month in succession.
"A form of subscription is herewith submitted. A x under any month, opposite any name, will indicate that the payment for that month is made."
Subscribers to the funds will, (if they send their names and post-office address,) be furnished with the monthly paper published by the Committee.
The Committee earnestly entreat all who approve this plan of operations to exert themselves promptly and steadily, for giving to it the efficiency and the permanency the cause demands. The times require liberal expenditures, and afford the strongest inducements and encouragements for them. At no previous time, perhaps, would an equal outlay have produced equal results.
The plan of monthly subscriptions, in times past, was found preeminently adapted to keep up a steady interest in our cause, and to supply steadily the means of carrying forward a steady, judicious, and economical system of operations.
WILLIAM E. WHITING, No. 37 Broadway, New-York City, is the GENERAL TREASURER.
By order of the Committee.
WILLIAM GOODELL, Secretary.
The subscribers hereby agree to pay monthly for one year (the year to begin first of July, 1855, and the first payment to be due August, 1855) to the Treasurer of the CENTRAL ABOLITION BOARD, or to one of the local Treasurers appointed to aid the funds of said Board, the sums respectively opposite their names.
The above Board holds that the Federal Constitution is an abolition paper, and that slavery, so far from being a law, is the most stupendous and atrocious piracy, most decisively and nakedly an outlaw.