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already commenced this work, and she moved on steadily by successive acts to its completion. New York very soon followed her example. There was at that time much less distinction than at present, between slaveholding and non-slaveholding States. It was, I think, considered as an evil and a wrong, in which the whole country was in different degrees involved, and which the whole country was under a solemn moral obligation to remove. The subject was everywhere freely discussed. I have before me, at this moment, a speech delivered in the Con, vention held at Danville, Kentucky, by the Rev. David Rice, proving that “ slavery is inconsistent with justice and good policy," printed in Philadel. phia, 1792. It is as thorough, manly, and able a discussion of this whole subject, as within the same compass I have ever seen. This was delivered in the Convention for forming a constitution for that State, and I have no reason to suppose that it gave any offence.

This same freedom of discussion was enjoyed in Kentucky until quite lately. Some ten or fifteen years since, a motion was entertained in the Legislature of that State to call a conven. tion for the express purpose of abolishing slavery, and it failed of success only by the casting vote of the speaker. Nay, even as late as the year 1830, in the Convention for forming the present Consti. tution for Virginia, the whole subject of slavery was publicly discussed, with a freedom and an eloquence which even in that State, so fertile in orators, has never been excelled.

The presentation of memorials to Congress, on the subject of slavery, has of late been esteemed an intolerable grievance. Formerly it was not so


considered. On the 8th day of December, 1791, memorials from Societies for the abolition of sla. very, from the States of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, were presented and read in the House

of Representatives, and were referred to a select Committee. In the memorial from Connecticut it is stated, “ that the whole system of African slavery is unjust in its nature, impolitic in its principles, and in its consequences ruinous to the industry and enterprise of the citizens of these States." The memorialists from Pennsylvania say, “we wish not to trespass on your time by referring to the different declarations made by Congress, on the unalienable right of all men to equal liberty ; neither would we attempt in this place to point out the inconsistency of extending freedom to a part only of the human race.” The memorialists from Baltimore declare that the objects of their association are founded in justice and humanity ; "that in addition to an avowed enmity to slavery in every form, your memorialists in their exertions contemplate a melioration of the condition of that part of the human race who are doomed to fill the degraded rank of slaves in our country," &c. The strongest expression of opinion, however, on this subject, occurs in the memorial from Virginia. It commences as follows: “ Your memorialists, fully believing that righteousness exalteth a nation, and that slavery is not only an odious degradation but an outrageous violation of one of the most essential rights of human nature, and utterly repugnant to the precepts of the gospel, which breathes peace on earth and good-will to men, they lament that a practice so inconsistent



with true policy, and the unalienable rights of men, should subsist in an enlightened age and

among a people professing that all mankind are by nature equally entitled to freedom.” These noble senti. ments, I repeat it, originated from Virginia, and were read and referred to a select Committee of the House of Representatives.

Much has also been said on the interference of Associations, and other ecclesiastical bodies, on this subject. I do not here enter upon the question whether or not such assemblies should, in their corporate capacity, take action on the matter of slavery. I will merely state that such action can claim very ancient precedents. At the meeting of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, held Aug. 7th, 1789, the following declaration was made :

Agreeably to a letter from the church at Baltimore, this Association declare their high approbation of the several societies formed in the United States, and Europe, for the gradual abolition of the slavery of Africans, and for the guarding against their being detained or sent off as slaves after having obtained their liberty, and do hereby recom, mend to the churches we represent to form similar societies, to become members thereof, and to exert themselves to obtain this important object." To this action I know not that any exception was ever taken.

These facts seem to me conclusively to show that during the period of our history immediately succeeding the Revolution, the right or wrong of slavery was considered throughout the Union as a perfectly open question, on which any one, without offence to any

class of persons, might freely express

his opinions ; on which any citizens might memorialize Congress, and in these memorials, express their opinions, assured that such opinions would meet with respectful attention ; and also that in at least three of the slaveholding States themselves, any citizen might, appealing to the understanding and conscience of his fellow-men, utter his senti. ments as freely on this as on any other subject.

I deeply deplore the change in this respect that has come over the South. It seems to me unwise and unreasonable. The institution of slavery, whether it be considered in the light of political economy, of philanthropy, or of Christianity, is surely important enough to demand a full and impartial discussion. If it can be defended on either of these grounds, " a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” would certainly require that its defence should attempted. If it cannot be so defended, but on the contrary can be shown to be at variance both with virtue and self-interest, the sooner we are convinced of this the better. But I especially deplore the intolerance on this subject, which I believe now to exist in the slave. holding States themselves. I know that there are at this moment many of our Southern citizens, some of them slaveholders, who are convinced both of the moral evil of slavery, and of its ruinous influ. ence on national prosperity. They long for an opportunity to express their sentiments to their fellow-citizens. But in the present state of public opinion they dare not do it. They are deprived of the opportunity of giving utterance to their honest convictions. Under such circumstances, how can we ever hope to arrive at the truth?

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To this it may be replied, that the violence and fanaticism of abolitionists has been the cause of this universal irritability of our Southern fellow. citizens. I have no doubt that this, to a consider. able degree, has been the fact. I admit the existence of the cause, and presume that it has in part at least produced this effect. But the question still remains, ought it to have produced this effect? Suppose that a man addresses me unkindly and abusively on a question of duty ; this may be a reason why I should not hear him, but it is surely no sufficient reason why I should not hear another man who addresses me on the same subject kindly and respectfully; much less is it a reason why I should determine never to hear the subject discussed by any person in any manner whatever. If abolitionists have treated this subject offensively, this is a no sufficient reason why any citizen of a Southern State should not be allowed, without offence, to declare his views of it in any suitable manner that he pleases. It is conceded that the institution of slavery is a matter peculiarly and exclusively belonging to the States in which it exists. For this reason, were there no other, the discussion of it should in those States be specially free, thorough, and universal.

I cannot but believe that the public feeling, on this subject, was much more healthy with our fathers than with us. I cannot be persuaded that irritability and menace are either manly or digni. fied, or that the employment of physical force to arrest the discussion of an important subject, is either useful or wise. I wish most sincerely, that the temper and conduct of the Southern members

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