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(title page) Life and Opinions of Julius Melbourn; with Sketches of the Lives and Characters of Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, John Randolph, and Several Other Eminent American Statesmen
A Late Member of Congress
239 p., ill.
PUBLISHED BY HALL & DICKSON. NEW YORK:--A. S. BARNES & CO.
Call number VC326.92 M51 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
LC Subject Headings:
all men are created equal
PRINTED BY WEED AND PARSONS.
The Crest of the Arms of the United States, was the Thirteen Stars dispelling the Cloud.
The reverse side of the Arms or Seal was an unfinished Pyramid. The likeness was copied with great care and
accuracy from Stuart's; the motto is from Jefferson's original draft, and the signature,
a fac-simile of his autograph, on the Declaration of Independence.
[Title Page Image]
[Title Page Verso Image]
INDEPENDENT of the merits or demerits of the style of the following work, or the talents or defect of talents which the writer may have displayed, the publishers may with great propriety ask themselves who they can reasonably hope will patronise this book?
It is quite certain they cannot expect the approbation of either of the two great political parties in the nation; for the errors and faults of both parties in the course of the work are pointed out without reserve and animadverted upon with freedom. Nor can the publishers hope for the general support of the people inhabiting any particular part of the United States; because the author upbraids the northern and western sections of the Union with pursuing a cold and selfish policy from mercenary motives, and with a political subserviency to the South caused by a love of office and its emoluments; while at the same time he charges the slaveholding states with sustaining unjust and tyrannical laws, and grossly violating human rights. Even the Christian Church in America, and its clergy, with some honorable exceptions, the author does not hesitate to accuse of pursuing the expedient rather than the right course, and of being greatly influenced by sinister motives. But as a very slight examination of the book will show that the author is opposed to slavery in all its forms, may not the publishers, it will be asked, flatter themselves that it will receive the support and patronage of the Abolition party? Alas for the Trade! they must not lay even "this flattering unction to their souls," for the author charges the Abolitionists with narrow and selfish views; and as a
party, he disapproves of many of their schemes and condemns their policy.
This view of the general tenor of the book and of the state of public feeling, it must be confessed, presents an unpromising and cheerless prospect to the publishers. But are there not many individuals in all the various sects in religion, and in all the political parties, who will read with patience and consider with candor, facts and arguments, notwithstanding those facts and arguments may militate against their own particular sect or party? It is believed there are, and that they are considerable in numbers, and we know that many of them are highly and deservedly distinguished for their merits, their talents, and their patriotism. It is to that portion of the American public that we appeal.
It may be said, and said truly, that in the story of Mr. Melbourn, as related by himself, there is nothing mysterious or remarkable, inasmuch as all the incidents which happened to him, though they may not all have occurred to one man alone, have frequently occurred, some to one and some to another individual. But conceding that Mr. Melbourn's narrative may not gratify curiosity or afford amusement, because it contains nothing mysterious or improbable, it is, in the opinion of the editor, for that very reason the more interesting. Have the events recorded in Mr. Melbourn's autobiography frequently occurred, and are they still daily occurring in our country--a country which boasts of its zeal for freedom and its devotion to civil liberty--a country whose political parties proudly inscribe on their banners "EQUAL RIGHTS" as their motto--and shall not the occurrence of such events "excite our special wonder?"
The remarks and reflections of Mr. Melbourn during the space of twenty years, the greater part of which he spent in the northern cities of the Union, are, it is true, extremely desultory, and some of the conclusions to which he arrived may be considered by the mere business man, or the busy and zealous politician struggling for place and power, as unjust; but it ought to be remembered that Melbourn belonged neither to the European nor African race; that his African blood excluded him from a familiar intercourse with good society; that he nevertheless possessed a cultivated and highly sensitive mind; that he was independent in his pecuniary circumstances;
and yet that in reality he had no associates. His position was like that which it may be supposed would be the position of a being who was a native of one of the planets of the solar system other than the earth, and who should visit this world and remain here for twenty years, and devote his time to making critical observations on what should be passing among its inhabitants.
Thus situated, it is not wonderful that Melbourn should occasionally have taken rather sombre views of men and things around him.
His sketches of the lives and characters of several eminent American statesmen, though very brief, will, it is believed, be found strictly correct. Indeed the accuracy and truthfulness with which he paints, proves that his portraits were drawn from personal knowledge and observation. His account of the proceedings in Congress when the State of Missouri was admitted into the Union, and of the Presidential elections in 1817 and 1824, will be admitted, by many persons now living, to be sober and veritable history.
But it is to be feared that Mr. Melbourn has in one respect, if none other, committed a sin altogether unpardonable. He has dared to applaud Great Britain for its toleration of independent individual opinion, and the free expression and advocacy of them, and also for the stern and unyielding protection its government affords to the personal rights and the personal liberty of each human being who places his foot on British soil.
There is a certain class of American reviewers and editors of newspapers, who seem to regard it as the most conclusive evidence of patriotism to condemn every thing British, and to applaud every thing American. In fact, it cannot be denied that many enlightened, and in other respects liberal-minded men, either from early prejudice or from a secret desire to pander to the morbid appetites of the less-informed portion of the American people, denounce with great severity and bitterness any thing said in favor of the state of society, the institutions, or even of the philanthropic efforts which have been or are being made by either the government or people of England. This habit of thinking and acting is unquestionably wrong. A man or a people of true magnanimity will always do justice even to an enemy. Why, then, should we be unwilling to
render justice to a nation with whom we are at peace, with whom we have much intercourse, from whom we derive a large portion of our literature, and from whom we are descended?
It may, however, be true, that from the treatment which Mr. Melbourn received in this his native country, when compared with the position in society he and his family were permitted to occupy upon their arrival in England, his mind may have become unreasonably biased and prejudiced against the country of his birth, and in favor of the one he has adopted. It is, therefore, hoped, that the candid reader will make due allowance for the circumstances under which Mr. Melbourn wrote.
I WAS born a slave, on a small plantation about ten miles from Raleigh in North Carolina, on the fourth day of July, 1790. It is probable that the accidental circumstance of my coming into the world on the great day which is the anniversary of American Independence, occasioned the day of my birth to be remembered in my master's family, and the mention of the fact in my presence, after I arrived at a sufficient degree of maturity to understand what was passing, has enabled me to be certain of my age. In this I differed from many, perhaps the majority of field-slaves, who are quite ignorant of their age.
My master, Major Johnson, whose Christian name I am unable to give, I have been told was a sutler in the army when Lord Cornwallis, during the Revolutionary war, over-ran the Southern states; and occasionally performed some service in the quartermaster department in the American army. He saved a considerable sum of money, which he accumulated during the war, and when it terminated, he invested the most of it in public securities of North Carolina and other states, for two shillings and sixpence and three shillings on the pound, which securities, after the adoption of the federal constitution, were funded, and became a part of the national debt. These securities immediately rose to their par value,
and shortly afterwards above it, so that what Major Johnson paid two shillings and sixpence for, while in his hands came to be worth twenty shillings, and eventually twenty-two and twenty-four shillings. He claimed that he had been a revolutionary patriot who had fought and bled for his country, and was an ardent lover of liberty, and a great enemy to British tyranny; and, from his real or pretended military services, he was known as Major Johnson. I have, it is true, heard it asserted by those who were politically opposed to him, that he carried on an illicit trade with the enemy during the war, and in return for their favors to him, that he occasionally furnished them with information respecting the movements and strength of the American army, and, that by such means he was enabled to purchase goods, which he sold at a most exorbitant price to his American brethren. But these outgivings were probably slanders emanating from personal envy and party malice; for he obtained a pension under the law of the United States passed during the administration of Mr. Monroe, which he enjoyed till his death.
My mother was the daughter of a slave of Major Johnson, and was born a year or two before the war broke out between Great Britain and her colonies. She was a mulatto, and as her mother was entirely black, her father must of course have been a white man. Major Johnson sold my grandmother before I was born, but kept my mother. I am utterly ignorant of my father, but am certain he was a white man, because, although my mother, as I have stated, was a mulatto, I am as white as most men, and indeed whiter than the Spaniards and Portuguese; and what is remarkable, and almost unaccountable, I have blue eyes, and my complexion is what would generally be denominated light. The only evidence afforded by my appearance that I am allied to the negro race is, my hair is curly, or rather a little woolly, and my nose is more flattened than is generally the case with the nose of a pure-blooded European.
It is, however, certain, that I am one quarter African, and although this portion of negro blood has subjected me to much distress and suffering, strange as it may appear, that blood is much dearer to me than all the Saxon blood that runs in my veins. I shall not attempt to account for this in any other way than by referring to the known and acknowledged fact, that mothers always feel the most ardent affection for that child who has been the most unfortunate, and who has given them the greatest pain and anxiety.
My recollection of my mother is very indistinct. She could not have been more than seventeen or eighteen years old when I was born. She was kept by my master as a field-slave, and bearing a child when she was so young, the fatigue incident to her employment, and the scantiness and coarseness of her fare, rendered her so feeble that she was incapable of performing as much field labor as was required of her; for this reason, and as Major Johnson possessed as many house-slaves as he needed, he determined to sell her to a negro-buyer who was purchasing a stock of slaves to send to Georgia, a considerable part of which state was then uncultivated, but which at that time was rapidly settling. This created a great demand for slaves in that quarter, and raised the price of them in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland. The day my mother was separated from me is among my earliest and most painful recollections. I was then about three years old, yet I remember the dreadful sensations I experienced, when she wildly, for the last time, pressed me to her bosom; and can almost now feel her scalding tears as they fell upon my face. In a moment she was forced from me, shrieking and in the madness of her grief tearing her hair; but forthwith her master ordered her manacled. I can never forget the chill of horror that thrilled through my veins when I heard the clink of the hammer used in riveting the rings which enclosed her wrists and fastened them to a bar of iron. My poor mother was soon marched off with a
gang of slaves, and I have never seen or heard of her since. Such was the feebleness of her constitution, that I solace myself with the reflection that, in all human probability, she must soon have perished in the damp and chilly rice-fields of Georgia.
I lived in Mr. Johnson's family till I was five years old, when Mrs. Melbourn, a widow lady who resided in Raleigh, purchased me; and to her I am indebted for my education and liberty, and every thing that is valuable in life.
Mrs. Melbourn was the widow of Lieut. Melbourn, of the British navy, who was killed in the great battle between Admiral Graves and Count de Grasse, which occurred shortly after the close of the Revolutionary war. Mrs. Melbourn before her marriage had a small estate, which was secured to her in the English funds, amounting to £3000 sterling; and after her husband's death she received a pension, during her life, of £200. She was an educated woman, and very pious, being a zealous member of the Methodist Society; and there is reason to believe that the illiberal treatment which that sect, in common with other dissenters, received from the government, induced her to turn her attention to America, and produced in her mind a train of reflection upon the civil and religious rights of man. Mrs. Melbourn had but one child, and that was a son, who, at the death of his father, was about seven years old; and she was so pleased with the sentiments put forth on the subject of the rights of man by the American orators and statesmen, at the commencement and during the American revolution, that she determined to remove to America, and educate her son in the United States. She therefore, within a few years after the death of Lieut. Melbourn, made such arrangements of her pecuniary affairs in England, as enabled her to put in execution her scheme. There were few persons in America to whom she was known. She had, however, a slight acquaintance with Mr. Gale, a printer, who emigrated from England, and who then had recently commenced
the publication of a newspaper in North Carolina.*
* Joseph Gale, Esq., who has so long, and with such distinguished ability, been the senior editor of the National Intelligencer, is probably the son of this gentleman.--Editor.
This circumstance probably induced her to go to North Carolina, and take up her residence at Raleigh.
* Joseph Gale, Esq., who has so long, and with such distinguished ability, been the senior editor of the National Intelligencer, is probably the son of this gentleman.--Editor.
On a visit to Mrs. Johnson, when I was, as I have stated, about five years old, Mrs. Melbourn saw me, and was so pleased with me that she purchased me of Major Johnson. Her religious and political principles rendered her zealously opposed to slavery, and she purchased me with the intention of causing me to be educated and giving me my freedom. Under her charge I was well provided for, and received a good English education. She brought with her from England Lieut. Melbourn's private library, which was remarkably well selected. It contained, among other valuable books, all the British classics, an excellent collection of Ancient and Modern History, and the best works of fiction then extant. To this library I had free access, and from it I derived much amusement, and I hope some profit.
When I was ten years old, Mrs. Melbourn sent me to a select school in the vicinity of Raleigh; but, on account of the African blood in my veins, I was not permitted by the managers of the school to remain there long; so that the education I afterwards acquired, was obtained from the instructions of a Methodist preacher, who was an almost constant inmate of our family, and from Lieut. Melbourn's library.
Mrs. Melbourn's son, whose name was Edward, when I was little more than twelve years old, was sent to finish his education at Princeton College, in New Jersey; and as Mrs. M. kept an English man-servant, I had abundance of leisure to pursue my studies; and the boys of my age declining to associate with me on such terms of equality as I thought I was entitled to, it is probable I spent less time in the pursuit
of amusement, and more hours in study, than I should have done had I been treated by those white children of my own age in such a manner as to render my association with them agreeable.
There resided near Raleigh a gentleman by the name of Boyd, then somewhat advanced in years, who was the owner of a considerable estate, and who, during the first part of the existence of the state government, had been an active and influential politician, but had, for several years before the time of which I speak, retired from all public employment.*
* During the revolutionary war he commanded a regiment of militia, and on several occasions distinguished himself for his bravery, and as a judicious military officer.
His wealth, his public services, and, more than all, the excellent qualities of his head and heart, caused him to be universally respected and beloved.
* During the revolutionary war he commanded a regiment of militia, and on several occasions distinguished himself for his bravery, and as a judicious military officer.
Col. Boyd's wife had died many years before, and had left him an only child, a daughter, who was now about fifteen years of age, and a most lovely girl. I have no talent at describing the persons of individuals; and if I had, beautiful females have been so often described by writers, (and really, as they appear in books, they all seem to me to look very much alike,) that if I could describe well, I would not take up the time of the reader in an attempt to draw the portrait of Laura Boyd. It must suffice to say, that she was beautiful, and that the elegance and purity of her mind increased the interest which was excited in her favor by her personal charms.
Edward Melbourn, when at home during his college vacations, spent much of his time in hunting and fishing with Col. Boyd, and soon became with him a great favorite. The lively conversation and fascinating address of Edward gradually inspired the old gentleman with that fondness for him which is not unfrequently produced in the minds of elderly men for young men who happen to please them. In the
mean time an attachment grew up between Edward and Laura Boyd, which resulted in a matrimonial engagement, which Col. Boyd consented should be consummated as soon as Edward should complete his collegiate studies and be admitted to practice in one of the learned professions. In one year from that time he graduated at Princeton College, and was gratified by having conferred on him the highest honors of his class. Upon leaving college he returned to Raleigh, and lingered there nearly the whole of the following year, enjoying the society of his mother and Col. Boyd, and fascinated by the charms of the lovely daughter. Roused, at length, by the consideration that his time was wasting away, and that before he could settle in life he must acquire a knowledge of a profession, he tore himself from these interesting and beloved friends, and went to Charleston in South Carolina, where he commenced the study of law, in the office and under the direction of Mr. Desausseaur, an eminent lawyer, who has since held, with distinguished reputation, a high judicial station in that state.
Young Melbourn remained in Mr. Desausseaur's office until he completed his professional studies; but on the day of his examination, at a convivial dinner-party, an altercation between him and a fellow-student occurred, which resulted in a challenge to a duel, and in the combat which ensued Edward was unfortunately slain. The news of this sad catastrophe reached Mrs. Melbourn on the very day he was expected home.
He had written to his mother that he should arrive at home on the first day of November. The evening of that day Colonel Boyd and his daughter called on Mrs. Melbourn; he was in high spirits, and felicitated himself on the agreeable surprise Edward would experience on seeing the improvements he had made the preceding summer, in his mansion-house, his garden, &c., and the addition he had made to his pack of hounds. Laura was silent, but her fine blue eyes
spoke hope and joy. It was one of the fine moonlight evenings of a Southern autumn. I do not believe the celebrated blue skies of Italy excel in beauty that of the Carolinas. Mrs. Melbourn invited her visiters to take a walk on the lawn connected with the garden. She seemed almost gay, and as she viewed the scene before her, she repeated in a low voice to Laura, those beautiful lines of Milton--
"These are thy glorious works, Parent of good! Almighty,
This thine universal frame, thus wondrous fair,
Thyself how wondrous then--unspeakable!"
While the party were thus happy on the green, I heard a knock at the front door, and hastened to open it. A stranger was standing there who inquired for Mrs. Melbourn. I answered she was at home and I would call her. With evident marks of agitation he inquired if she had company. I replied a neighboring gentleman and his daughter were with her. "I pray you," said the stranger, "not to think me impertinent, but for particular reasons beg you to tell me the name of the gentleman." I was surprised at his request, but more at his manner, which was embarrassed and confused. Upon learning that it was Colonel Boyd, he requested that the colonel might be informed a gentleman wished to speak with him. The colonel, on receiving the message, immediately came into the house, and saluted the gentleman, who was still standing at the door. They stepped a few paces aside, and conversed together in a low voice for the space of two or three minutes. Colonel Boyd then turned, with a face pale as death, and I heard him say: "I cannot; upon my soul I cannot tell her this dreadful news." The thought like a flash of lightning came into my mind that Edward was dead. Colonel Boyd, however, in a moment seemed to be more calm and collected, and walked into the garden with the stranger, whom he introduced to Mrs. Melbourn. "Mr. Warren," said he, in a solemn voice, "brings sad news from
Edward." "Merciful God!" said my mistress, "what of my son?" The stranger hesitated, and Colonel Boyd stood silent and immoveable as a block of marble. Mrs. Melbourn clasped her hands in deep agony. "He is dead," said she, "and you dare not tell me!" They continued silent. My mistress fell back on a seat which was near her. In the mean time, Laura, of whom no notice had been taken, fell prostrate on the ground; her father sprang to her and raised her up in his arms. She was apparently lifeless. I ran for water and gave it to her father, but it was some time before she manifested any signs of life. My mistress was still seated, but she seemed like a statue; her eyes appeared glazed and immoveable. I knelt before her, took one of her hands, and implored her to speak to me. I reminded her that afflictions were ordered by a kind Providence for wise purposes, and entreated her, in this sudden and unspeakable calamity, to look to Him, who, I had often heard her say, would never leave nor forsake us. A flood of tears came to her relief. I said, "My dear mistress, your grief and the cause of it is great, but do not despair. God is just. There must be consolation, there must be good days yet in store for so good, so benevolent, so holy a being as you are." "Never--never on earth," said she, "my last prop, my only earthly hope is gone, and I must look for quiet in the grave, and comfort only in heaven."
I was myself deeply affected by the distress of this amiable and excellent woman. Besides, the death of Edward was to me like the untimely loss of an elder brother tenderly beloved; and my own private grief was rendered more poignant when I afterwards learned that the cause of the fatal encounter was, that Edward's antagonist reproached him with the conduct of his mother, for bringing me up and educating me as a gentleman, who was born a slave.
Mrs. Melbourn for a long time after the death of her son seemed prostrated by the affliction. Her grief, though silent,
was profound, and her health seemed sinking under her distress of mind. I much feared that her corporeal powers were too feeble to resist the shock; indeed I think she would have sunk under it, had it not been for the consolations of religion, and her firm, unshaken faith that her heavenly Father would in the end order all things for the best and for the greatest good. Her faith and resignation to the will of God were greatly assisted by the advice and exhortations of Mr. Smith, a methodist preacher, a native of Virginia, who spent much of his time at our house, and who was not only a zealous Christian but a very judicious and discreet man.
Colonel Boyd felt the death of Edward as an affliction the most painful. This young man had become connected with all his plans for the future enjoyment of life. His untimely death had disconcerted all those schemes, and had left the old veteran depressed with a feeling of utter and gloomy solitude. He often said he felt that he resembled a dry tree standing alone in the field, exposed to be prostrated by every gust of wind. The deep and corroding melancholy of Laura added to the Colonel's depression of spirits, and his anxiety was increased by the apprehension that her constitution was incapable of sustaining her against the sea of troubles with which she was overwhelmed. Laura perceived the anxiety of her father, and became alarmed at his condition. She justly suspected that much of his depression was owing to his solicitude for her, and, with the hope of saving the life of her father, she endeavored to appear to forget the death of her lover. Time and these laudable efforts gradually mellowed the grief of the one, and diminished the gloom and despondency of the other.
In the mean while I pursued my studies of general literature; and three years more passed away without the occurrence of any incident worth relating.
In the winter of 1806, the good Mrs. Melbourn procured the consent of the proper authorities, and the deed for my
emancipation was duly executed by her. She did this, as I afterwards learned, to guard against any legal objection which might be raised, after her death, against the provisions contained in her will for my emancipation; and because Mr. Smith had suggested to her, that by the law of North Carolina I was, while a slave, personal property--that is to say, a mere thing--and would be adjudged incapable of taking by bequest or devise any property she might think proper to bequeath to me.
During the three years last mentioned, Mrs. Melbourn sent me frequently with messages to Laura Boyd and her father. In the course of these visits I became acquainted with a mulatto girl by the name of Maria, a slave of Colonel Boyd, whom he had given to his daughter as a dressing-maid. Maria was born the property of Colonel Boyd, and in his house. Her mother was a favorite house-slave; she did not live long after the birth of Maria, who was her only child. Maria had been tenderly brought up, and taught to read and write, and the use of the needle.
Her mother, though a slave, was a quadroon, and her father was a white man. Maria therefore was allied to the African race only in the eighth degree. I hardly need mention that the difference in appearance between her and those of pure Saxon blood was so slight as to be almost imperceptible. Indeed it was quite so to an ordinary observer. Yet she was a slave--a thing--an article of merchandise!--by the laws of the free, democratic state of North Carolina!! She was about fifteen years old when I first became acquainted with her.
I am aware that many persons in America, some of whom perhaps may honor me with a perusal of this history of my life, may feel disgusted and indignant at an attempt to describe a female who was tainted with African blood, as beautiful. But nevertheless I am sure there are those, both in England and the United States, who claim to be competent judges, who admit that the most beautiful human forms they ever saw were mulatto
girls, and especially those of Richmond, Va. That Maria was one of this description, all who ever saw her admitted. Her tall, erect figure, her sparkling eye, her polished high fore-head, the intellectual, the kind and affectionate expression of her countenance, her graceful movements, and enchanting smile, were to me irresistibly fascinating. I first admired her for the charms of her person, but as my acquaintance and my intimacy with her advanced, I loved her for the qualities of her heart and the superiority of her mind. Maria could not, and indeed did not, have any consciousness of her condition as a slave. She knew, it is true, that she belonged to Laura Boyd, but her situation with that young lady was the precise situation she would have chosen, if the whole world had been open to her choice. She was, practically, as free as the mountain deer. Laura required no more of her than she would have done had her actions depended entirely on her own volition, and indeed she was wholly unconscious of doing any thing or remaining anywhere by compulsion. In the fall of 1807, I communicated my feelings and wishes to Maria, who, being a slave, of course had no acquaintance with educated and well-bred men, and her own education and taste prevented her from the least association with the slaves or the free colored young men in the neighborhood. The manners of this latter class were rude and vulgar, and most of them were licentious and vicious in their habits. I was the only civil male person, except the venerable Colonel Boyd, with whom Maria had ever conversed, and therefore she was pleased with me.
When I made known my attachment to her, she heard me with cordial delight, and confessed her heart had long been mine. She said she would ask her mistress to consent to her marriage with me. "But," said Maria, hesitating, "what if she or my old master should refuse?" A livid paleness overspread her cheek, and apparently, for the first time in her life, poor Maria felt that she was not her own. Now, for the
first time, the degradation and misery of slavery presented themselves to her disturbed and agitated mind. After a moment's silence she added, "But they are too good, too kind--I am sure they will not refuse."
In fact, Maria did not over-estimate the kindness of Colonel Boyd and her mistress; they readily granted their consent, but insisted that the marriage should be postponed until I should be twenty-one years of age. This was but reasonable, and, although sorely against my inclination, I was fain to acquiesce in this decision, mainly, I confess, because I saw no way of successfully resisting it. I was then seventeen years old.
From this time I was a frequent visiter at Colonel Boyd's, and I was uniformly kindly received by that gentleman and his amiable daughter, and treated, notwithstanding my African blood, more like a relative of the family than a servant of a neighboring friend. The countenance of Maria always brightened at my approach, and, when with her, I forgot every other human being. Thus passed two of the happiest years of my life. Alas, those blissful days passed rapidly away, to be succeeded by years of suffering and misery. I perceived with deep regret and painful apprehension that the health of Mrs. Melbourn was gradually declining. The fervor of her piety increased, but the wound produced by the death of her son, instead of being healed by time, was cankering and corroding her heart's core. Although endued with holy resignation and heavenly hope, her nervous system was too susceptible to endure the sight of an article of clothing that had been worn by Edward, or even a book which he had been fond of reading.
In the summer of 1809, a young gentleman from Norfolk, Virginia, by the name of Alexander St. John, stopped a few days at Raleigh and paid a visit to Colonel Boyd. His father was a man of wealth and respectability, and, with Colonel Boyd, during the Revolution had served in the army of General Washington,
and were both personally known and highly esteemed by that great and good man. After the termination of the Revolution, Colonel Boyd and Major St. John still continued their friendly intercourse, and their friendship increased with their age. This intimacy afforded them the greater pleasure as they belonged to the same political party, both being Federalists of the old school. In the preceding autumn Major St. John had died suddenly, leaving the whole of his large estate to Alexander, his only surviving child.
Colonel Boyd received the visit from the son of his old friend with great pleasure, and at his persuasion, Mr. St. John was induced to remain longer in our neighborhood than he had originally intended. He at times showed some traits of libertinism in his character, and talked more about games and horseracing than was agreeable to Colonel Boyd, who, speaking of him to Laura in my presence, after expressing his dislike to those little foibles, as he called them, said his dislike was perhaps occasioned by the circumstance that he had become old and had lost a relish for pleasures which might have charmed him when young. "That may be so," said Laura, "but I am sure my father was never charmed with vicious pleasures." "I do not think," said her father, more gravely, "that an indulgence in vice, either by young or old, deserves the name of pleasure." "I wish all the world were of your opinion," said Laura. "There is certainly a great difference," continued she, after a short pause, "between Mr. St. John and"--she sighed--"many of our North Carolina young gentlemen."
Alexander St. John had been brought up as a rich man's son, and was in fact a spoiled child. His father had made liberal provision for his education, but he, by one excuse and another, avoided any serious application to study, and like most young men of fortune at that day, in Virginia, had imbibed a hearty contempt for the learned professions, and indeed for all classes of business men. From habit and taste
he had become fond of horseracing, gambling, and at times a very free indulgence in drinking. Although he liked rows and was sometimes engaged in brawls, he was considered what was denominated a clever fellow. He was very tenacious of the word called honor, and was ready at all times to gamble, drink, laugh, or fight with you.
This young man professed a violent attachment to Laura, and solicited the consent of her father to pay his addresses to her. Laura learned the proposal with pain and regret; the more so, because she perceived her father was inclined to favor the wishes of Mr. St. John. She knew he would on no account urge her to do an act entirely contrary to her inclination; his only object was her happiness, and that very knowledge rendered her extremely unwilling to refuse her consent. But in the whole deportment of Mr. St. John she thought she discovered a total disregard to religion and virtue, an air of libertinism, and a careless assurance nearly amounting to impudence, very revolting to her feelings. She confessed these impressions to her father, which he heard with regret. He replied, that she was the only treasure left to him on earth; that on her happiness depended his own; he knew she had once loved an object worthy of her, but he was no more: would it be in accordance with her duty towards society, would it be wise to bury herself at her age? Mr. St. John belonged to a family of great respectability, of unstained honor, and large estate. The latter circumstance he cared little about, as had been proved to Laura on another occasion, but it was a circumstance which ought to have some weight in deciding upon Mr. St. John's proposal, because an increase of wealth would enable them to be more useful to their fellow-beings. "You are already," said he, "near the end of the spring-time of life, and, my dear child, I will confess to you that I am unwilling that my family should end with you and me." Here his voice trembled, and Laura perceived that he had touched a string which vibrated through
his heart. She was much distressed, and begged her father not to press her further at that time, but to advise Mr. St. John to return to Virginia, and she would give the subject the consideration which its importance demanded, and which her love and duty to her kind good father required. "Be it so," said he, pressing her hand, "but do not make yourself unhappy to please me."
This last remark sunk deep into the heart of Laura. Could she act contrary to the wishes of her only parent, and that parent so kind, so affectionate? St. John was extremely pressing for a more favorable answer, and not obtaining it, prepared reluctantly to return to Virginia.
Soon after this conversation Mr. St. John made his addresses to Laura, and solicited her hand in marriage. She heard him with deep and painful regret; nevertheless, the ardent solicitude of her father that she should be settled in life finally wrung from her a reluctant consent, but that consent she did not yield until she had consulted Mrs. Melbourn, who earnestly advised her that her duty to society and to her father required her to accede to the proposals of Mr. St. John; and she soon after became his wife.
It was now the latter part of the year 1809; and as the cold weather approached, Mrs. Melbourn, who had been gradually sinking, in consequence of a melancholy which followed the death of her son, and which could not be overcome, was attacked with a cough of a character evidently indicating that her lungs were affected.
It is a singular feature in the disease called consumption, that as the body declines the mind becomes more vigorous, or rather the intellectual vision becomes clearer, and the mental powers glow with greater and greater brilliancy till the lamp of life is extinguished. That was peculiarly the case with Mrs. Melbourn. Indeed, her tone of mind, by which I mean her fortitude, evidently increased as death approached. Although formerly she could not endure the sight of any thing
which had belonged to Edward, now she directed his wearing apparel to be brought into her room, and also his letters to be read to her, which she had carefully preserved. She heard them with composure and pleasure. I could see sometimes, when reading those letters which contained ardent expressions of filial affection, a tear start in her eye; but it seemed her main reason for calling for these letters was to prepare her mind for that converse which she hoped soon to enjoy with her beloved child in another world.
One day, and it was less than a week before her death, she called me to her bedside, and motioned to the servants to retire. She said she had but few words to say to me, and these related only to worldly concerns. She wished me to marry Maria, and trusted I would do so. Although both Colonel Boyd and Laura had assured her that Maria should be emancipated at any time when it was thought best, and certainly when she was married to me, the new relations caused by the marriage of Laura to a stranger might produce obstacles not now anticipated, and she had thought it better to provide in her will the means of paying for Maria's freedom, and which Mr. Smith, who was her executor, was authorized to pay to me on my becoming twenty-one years of age. "The principal part of the legacy I intend for you," said she, "is left in the hands of Mr. Smith, as a trustee, until you arrive at the age of twenty-five years."
She died four days after. A great poet has said, that
"The death-bed of the just is yet undrawn
By mortal hand: it merits a divine."
If Mrs. Melbourn in her lifetime exhibited, as in truth she did, the beauties of the Christian religion, her death evidently proved its triumph. She was calm, self-collected, and possessed in full perfection her mental faculties, and her eyes shone with more than usual lustre. In her last moments she took the hand of Mr. Smith; "I knew," said she, "that my
Heavenly Father would not forsake me in this hour." Her last words were, "My husband--my Edward--I come!"
"Sweet peace and humble hope and heavenly joy
Divinely beamed on her exalted soul,
And crowned her for the skies with
Incommunicable lustre bright."
After her death and burial Mr. Smith produced her will. She bequeathed an annuity of $100 to each of her English servants. She gave her watch and Bible to Laura; to the Methodist society $1000, to be paid as Mr. Smith should direct; and she bequeathed to me the residue of all her estate, amounting in value, as I afterwards ascertained, to a little more than $20,000. Of this sum Mr. Smith was immediately to pay me $400 to purchase the freedom of Maria, if it should be necessary to pay for her freedom, and a small sum annually for my expenses until I should be twenty-five years old, when the whole amount was to be delivered over to me.
Since the marriage of Mr. St. John with Laura he had claimed the house of Colonel Boyd as his home; and he did, in fact, spend the winter and early part of the spring of 1810 there, but in May he went back to Virginia to superintend, as he said, his estate in the neighborhood of Norfolk. Laura seemed more dejected after her marriage than before; and neither the entreaties of her husband or her father could induce her to mingle in society more than barely to avoid treating with apparent neglect the friends of the family. St. John during the winter had shown some slight indications that he had not abandoned his habits of dissipation, and I thought there appeared a want of cordial good-feeling towards him on the part of Colonel Boyd. When in company with St. John, there was a formality and a constraint in his manner not exactly suited to the relations existing between them. I observed, too, that Maria appeared unhappy, and I sought in vain to learn from her the cause of her uneasiness. I informed
Colonel Boyd of Mrs. Melbourn's bequest to purchase her freedom, and wished him to give his consent. He seemed offended at the overture. "He had," he said, "told me she should be free on the day of our marriage, and hoped I did not mean to intimate that I doubted he would perform what he promised." Of course I could not urge him further.
As an excuse for going frequently to the house of Colonel Boyd, I used to carry him his letters regularly from the post-office immediately after the arrival of the mails; and this practice I continued the whole of the autumn of that year. St. John had protracted his stay at Norfolk much longer than was expected. One evening, among the letters, I observed one post-marked Norfolk. Colonel Boyd opened that first: while reading it he appeared greatly agitated, which his daughter perceiving, begged him to acquaint her with the cause. He hesitated a few moments, and then said, "My dear child, I fear we have been deceived in Mr. St. John; at any rate, it appears from this letter, which is from an old friend of mine in Virginia, that his affairs in that state are totally ruined." The letter was brief, but stated in substance, that soon after the death of his father he had indulged quite too freely in dissipation and profuse expenditure; that in less than six months after he came to the possession of his estate, he had mortgaged it for nearly one-third of its value, an act that was for some time kept secret; that during the last summer he had been guilty of gross licentiousness, and had become an associate with the most extravagant and reckless gamblers, who had swindled him out of all his estate, and left him in debt.
Colonel Boyd had the year before been attacked with a slight shock of apoplexy; his daughter was alarmed lest this news would discompose his nerves so as to produce a return of that fearful disease. She therefore said to him cheerfully, "Perhaps it is not so bad as your friend writes; and even if his property is gone, we have enough to live upon. I did not
marry Mr. St. John for his money." "No," said her father, "you did not marry him for his money, but you married him because you loved me, and I urged you to it." "Indeed you did not," said she, "you left the matter to my own free will and--" "Mighty God!" said he, heedless of what she said, "that I should urge my dear child to marry a drunkard--a companion of swindlers--" As he said this, he rose suddenly from his seat, clasped his hands, and fell dead on the floor.
The scene was awful. I sprang to the colonel--attempted to raise him--used friction and other means to reanimate him. Alas! it was all in vain: the lamp of life was extinguished forever. Laura was insensible. Maria made every effort to restore her, which in a short time proved successful. What effect was produced upon the tender and affectionate heart of Laura by the sudden death of her only parent, can be better imagined than described. Her grief was silent, but it was most intense. The mind which is capable of overcoming one great misfortune--the heart which has been once lacerated by deep wounds, and whose dearest hopes have been crushed--if capable, by the strength of reason, to triumph and ride out the storm, acquires additional strength to encounter other and equally severe afflictions. The mind, though it may retain its sensibilities, acquires not exactly rigidity, but a tone which increases its capability to resist prostration on account of subsequent disappointments and grief: the flesh that becomes callous after a wound, will be less affected by a blow than that which has never been injured. So it was with Laura: she had survived the destruction of her fondest hopes in the death of her beloved Edward, and that experience encouraged her to hope, that time, and an humble resignation to the dispensations of a Divine Providence, would enable her to outlive the loss of her father.
Colonel Boyd died without a will. From that reluctance
which all feel, while in health, to sit in judgment upon their own affairs after death, and make a final disposition of their property, he had from time to time, and from various causes, (most of which were merely pretences, which his unwillingness to engage in the business of making a will had conjured up,) put it off; although, on the very day of his death, he told Laura that he should go to town the next day for the purpose of having his will drawn; that he was admonished by the paralytic shock he experienced about a year before, that he might die suddenly; that he was alarmed at the habits and propensities he discovered in St. John, and that he meant to vest his estate in the hands of trustees for the benefit of his daughter, to be subject to her control. An inscrutable Providence defeated these prudential calculations and arrangements.
A special message was immediately dispatched for Mr. St. John, but he did not arrive at Raleigh until the day after the funeral. He had not been at home many days before he assumed the absolute control of the property of Colonel Boyd, all of which, both real and personal, he claimed in right of his wife as sole heiress. He put on new airs, and, indeed, seemed a different kind of man. He sold a considerable number of the slaves to raise money to pay off the balance of debts still existing against him in Virginia. A great part of his time was spent at political meetings and horse-races, or carousing at a hotel in Raleigh; and when at home, he was ill-natured and cruel to the slaves, and sullen and sulky at his own fireside. Thus it was that Laura, while overwhelmed with grief at her father's death, was distressed with the painful conviction that her husband, in whose absolute power the laws of the land placed her and her great estate--was becoming, if he had not already become, profligate in his principles and habits, and tyrannical and brutal in his character. His treatment of me was haughty and offensive, and he even intimated a wish that I would not visit at
his house. Maria seemed more distressed than any other member of the family. Mr. St. John's entrance would constantly throw her into a tremor: the sound of his voice, or even the noise of his steps, would make her bosom throb with fear. As soon as I could speak with her alone, I reminded her of the agitation she had on several occasions manifested in presence of Mr. St. John, and entreated her to inform me of the cause of it,--which she declined doing. I told her that if her situation was in any respect painful, I would have her removed to some other place. "Alas!" said she, "there are two things which render such a step impossible. In the first place, she was the property of Mr. St. John, and therefore could not leave without his consent; and if he would yield such consent, she herself could not leave her mistress in her present condition." I replied that there was money in the hands of Mr. Smith to purchase her freedom, and that, at all events, should be done immediately. "Julius," said she, with a deep sigh, "I fear Mr. St. John will refuse to sell me." Like a flash of light, it came into my mind that St. John cherished improper designs in relation to her. The horrid idea entered my soul like a barbed arrow. I said no more, but hastened to Mr. Smith, and communicated to him my apprehensions, and begged him immediately to apply to St. John for the purchase of Maria. He did so the next morning, and met with a prompt and peremptory refusal to sell her on any terms. In vain Mr. Smith represented the solemn engagement of Colonel Boyd, that he would set her free without money and without price; and that, at a proper time, she was to become my wife. The excuse rendered by Mr. St. John was, that the attendance of Maria on Mrs. St. John was indispensable. Having stated this, he immediately left the room. Mr. Smith then requested to see Mrs. St. John, and explained to her the nature of his business with her husband. Mrs. St. John said it was the intention of her father that Maria should be freed, which perfectly accorded
with her own wishes; that she would speak to her husband on the subject, and she did not doubt he would consent that Maria, whenever she chose, should leave the family. The next day, Mr. Smith and myself called, and found Laura indisposed. She appeared to have been weeping. Maria was not in the room. Laura said she had been disappointed: she had been unable to persuade Mr. St. John to liberate Maria; she hoped, however, on reflection, he would be better disposed. St. John was then in the field, and we concluded to wait his return to the house. On his entrance into the room, Mr. Smith immediately rose and said to him, that it gave him great pleasure to learn that Mrs. St. John did not object to the discharge of Maria, which, from what passed yesterday, he trusted would remove the objection of Mr. St. John; and he added, that if the price was any object, he would, on his own responsibility, double the sum left by Mrs. Melbourn for the purchase of the freedom of Maria. St. John's eyes flashed with rage and fury. "Am I," said he, "to sell my slave at the dictation of a fanatical old woman? You and your whole Methodist gang may go to the d--, with this fellow Julius, whom you have pampered to cut our throats. I will not, for all the wealth of your tribe, sell this girl,--by heavens, I will not!" Mr. Smith endeavored to calm him, and finally insisted that St. John was under a moral obligation to carry into effect the intention of Colonel Boyd. This increased his rage. "You scoundrel!" said he, "have I not a right to do what I please with my own property? Rascal! do you claim to direct me what I shall sell, or what I shall keep? There stands my roan mare--perhaps in your next sermon you will exhort me to sell her. Out of my house, and never let me see you here again." We left the house, and the next day I received the following note from Maria:
"MY DEAR FRIEND,
"I am very unhappy. I cannot, dare not, explain to you the cause. My poor mistress is very sick. She cannot write; if she could, I would never consent to write what I do now. My mistress says we must be married right away. I hope you will not think me too bold for writing this. I would not for the world have done so had not my kind, good mistress told me I must. She says Mr. St. John is going to the horserace to-morrow, and that you must come and bring with you Mr. Parker, the church minister, as she thinks Mr. St. John will not find so much fault with him for doing it as he would with Mr. Smith, because he is a Methodist and Mr. Parker is a Churchman. I am afraid you will think ill of me for writing this, but then I think there is something in your heart that will make you forgive your own distracted but true-hearted
I cannot express the joy with which I read over this artless letter. I loved Maria with an affection the most ardent. This passion was not excited by her beauty, but by the purity of her mind, and the strength of her affection for me. It is said that "pity moves the soul to love;" and her unprotected, distressed, and forlorn situation as a slave, and--may I add, without offending the delicacy of the reader?--her taint with despised African blood, increased my sympathy and affection.
I communicated the letter to Mr. Smith, who with me called on Mr. Parker, and stated the case fully to him, and he entirely approved of the measure. He went the next afternoon with me to the house, and we found Mrs. St. John on her bed. I lost no time in expressing the deep sense of gratitude I felt for what she had done. She said there was no time for conversation, for Mr. St. John's mare, which he intended for the race, was found that morning to be a little
lame, and it was possible, and even probable, that he might return without going to the race-ground. We therefore immediately prepared for the ceremony, but just as Mr. Parker was about to commence, Mr. St. John entered the room. He instantly perceived what was going on, and forbid the marriage; ordered Mr. Parker and me to leave the house, and seized hold of Maria. Involuntarily I laid my hand on my dagger, which I then carried in my bosom. May God forgive me, but at that moment my soul thirsted for blood. At that instant Mrs. St. John rose from her bed; the fire of Colonel Boyd's eye flashed from that of his retiring and mild daughter. "I command you," said she to Mr. Parker, "to proceed. That man has no right to interfere. The girl is mine, and I will dispose of her. What mean you," said she, addressing St. John, "by thus insulting the honor and the memory of my father? My lands and goods you have; I do not complain. Have you the meanness to claim the control of my own maid? You cannot, shall not do it. I will carry out the intention of my father at the sacrifice of my life." St. John was struck dumb with surprise; he had never before seen any thing in his wife but the most quiet submission; for the moment he was overawed. He felt "how awful virtue was," and shrunk from the frown of outraged innocence. She turned to Mr. Parker, and said, with calmness, but with that true dignity which conscious rectitude and the triumph of virtue always inspires, "Proceed, sir, with the ceremony." He did so; but the moment he pronounced us man and wife, Mrs. St. John fell apparently lifeless on the sofa.
She, however, soon recovered, and though she continued ill for several months, the succeeding winter she in a great measure regained her usual state of health, which had never been good since the shock she experienced upon hearing of the death of Edward.
After Maria became my wife, I continually urged her to
disclose to me the reason why she for a long time past had been, and still appeared to be distressed in the presence of St. John, and she finally consented to explain the matter to me on the express condition that I would promise not to attempt to avenge any wrongs or injuries to which she had been subjected; and to this condition I consented.
She then related to me, in detail, the persecutions she had suffered from St. John, which commenced soon after his marriage with Laura Boyd; his flatteries, his threats, and finally his attempt at force, when fortunately she was relieved by the accidental and unexpected appearance of Mrs. St. John. Maria concluded by saying, that she wrote me the note requesting me to come and marry her by the express command of her mistress.
While listening to Maria's relation, I became highly indignant, and when she concluded, I trembled with rage. I grasped my dagger, and my first thought was to seek out the monster, and stab him to the heart. Maria checked me. She pointed out the criminality of such an act. She urged the certain ruin to myself as well as her which would inevitably follow, and reminded me of my solemn promise that I would not take revenge;--and her expostulations had the effect she intended.
The condition of the male slave one would suppose was the extreme of wretchedness, but that of the female is still worse. For a female to be the PROPERTY of an unscrupulous, sensual, and profligate man, how horrible! Well might Maria say, as she did say to me on this occasion, "How could the poor slave endure life were it not for her belief in a benevolent and just God, and in 'another and a better world?' "
I went home, and wrote St. John the following note:
Maria has told me all, but on the condition that I would promise not to avenge her wrongs. Vile as you are, I shall keep
that promise. But remember--ay, REMEMBER--that if you again abuse her with your beastly attempts, as sure as there is a God in heaven, be the consequence to me what it may, you are a dead man.
I am, &c.
A. ST. JOHN, Esq.
Some persons may think it extraordinary that on the receipt of my letter St. John did not complain to the police officers and cause me to be arrested; but he knew I had powerful friends in Raleigh--he knew I could command money, and he considered that he could not make the complaint without disclosing his own infamy, and drawing down upon himself the vengeance of the friends of his wife. He was alarmed; for from his knowledge of me he was well convinced that if he persisted in his nefarious course, I should execute my threats.
True courage is based upon virtue. The paroxysms of a madman and the blustering of the inebriate have no affinity with real fortitude. Hence the sordid knave and the profligate villain are generally cowards. St. John therefore from that time entirely ceased making those attempts upon Maria, but treated her afterwards in a most inhuman and tyrannical manner. Her body was frequently lacerated by wounds inflicted by the blows of this monster, but this she carefully concealed from me and Mrs. St. John.
The events last related occurred in the autumn of the year 1811, and it will be recollected that I became twenty-one years old on the fourth day of July in that year. During the winter and following summer St. John became more and more dissipated and irregular in his conduct, while his unfortunate wife, feeble in health and depressed in spirits, seemed barely to support a painful existence. Maria was her only companion. St. John was absent most of the time, a considerable part of which he spent in Baltimore and New
York. I made several attempts through agents (for I knew a personal application was sure to be refused) to purchase Maria's freedom; but to all such applications he gave a peremptory refusal even to treat on the subject. This state of things produced in my mind extreme pain, which was greatly heightened and rendered almost intolerable by Maria's giving birth to a son, who, according to the laws of North Carolina, was the slave of Alexander St. John. Strange law! I was worth at least $20,000 and yet my innocent child, born in lawful wedlock, was the property, the goods and chattel of my most inveterate enemy, who, if I were to offer him a million of money, would be justified, by the laws of the land, in retaining my child in bondage. And yet North Carolina claims to be a Christian, a democratic state, and inscribes on her banner, Equal Rights, as her favorite motto! I invoke the attention, not of the slaveholder, for he is incorrigibly insensible, but of the civilized world to this great fact, so damning to the reputation of the slaveholding democratic states of the great American Union. There was, however, one consideration which afforded me some hope. St. John was rapidly involving himself in debt, and perhaps the pressure on him for money might before long induce him to sell, for a round sum, I cared not how exorbitant, my wife and child. In the spring of 1814, St. John determined he would spend a part of the ensuing summer at Saratoga Springs, New York. He now found himself sadly pinched for money; his creditors too were very pressing; his debts, which had been chiefly incurred at the gambling table and for bets on horseracing, were of such a character as he was bound to pay promptly, or lose caste among his associates. It therefore became necessary for him to raise by a loan a large sum of money.
There was a man in Raleigh by the name of Return Jonathan Fairport, who was a dealer in money, and generally called a broker, though in truth the appellation of shaver would have been more appropriate for him than the honorable
name of broker. Mr. Fairport was a native of Lynn, Massachusetts, and some ten years before had introduced himself at the South as a pedler of wooden clocks and sundry articles of tinware. In that business he was very successful, and in a few years had cleared to himself some four or five thousand dollars in ready cash, with which he commenced operating by purchasing notes and small bonds and mortgages, and by accommodating the young Southern gentlemen with loans in the winter season, to be repaid after the next tobacco harvest, with from 25 to 50 per cent. interest. In this way, by the aid of Mr. Grip, a lawyer in Raleigh, he increased the amount of his funds with astonishing rapidity. During the war with Great Britain the difference in exchange between the South and North became very considerable, and before its close rose to 20 per cent.; and Mr. Fairport having established a credit at Boston, and a pretty good understanding with the managers of the general post-office at Washington, his gains were enormous.
Mr. Fairport was a little under the usual size, miserably emaciated, with a long chin, sharp pointed nose, small gray eyes, sunk very deep into his head, a cadaverous complexion, and a most grave and melancholy countenance. He was a religious man, and a member of the Presbyterian church of his native town, and held strictly to the Saybrook Platform.
Mr. St. John had for some time been in the practice of borrowing small sums of money of Return Jonathan Fairport. On the present occasion he called upon him and told him he wanted to borrow a large sum. "Lack-a-day," said Jonathan, "I am just at this time hard up. I have not one hundred dollars at command. Where in the world can I get a thousand dollars? I am this moment racking my brains to meet a draft from Boston of $500." "Pooh!" said St. John, "I understand your tricks, brother Jonathan; you need not attempt to play them on me. I know you can command any sum you choose. Don't talk to me of one thousand dollars,
I want at least fifteen thousand!" Fairport raised his hands and gazed at St. John with astonishment. "Fifteen thousand," said he, "I could not, to save the nation, raise five thousand." "D--n it," said St. John, "let me hear no more of this; you know that I know what you say is false." "What has Major St. John seen of me," replied Fairport, meekly, "which causes him to charge me with falsehood? truly he knows I am a conscientious man." "Ay, that I do, and that you are a pious go-to-meeting man; but," said St. John, in a low voice, "give me $15,000, and I will give you my bond for $18,000, payable next new-year's day, with interest; what say you to that St. Jonathan?" Mr. Fairport looked intently on a mortgage that lay before him for a moment, then clapping his hand on his forehead, said: "A thought has struck me, which may perhaps lead to your accommodation. There is no man in the state I would sooner oblige than yourself. You must need the money very much, or you would not make so liberal an offer: now a friend of mine in Salem, in the old Bay State, writes me to invest some money for him, and has authorized me to draw on him for a considerable amount. I will venture to make the loan on these conditions: you shall pay 15 per cent., which is the usual price for a draft on Boston, and give me a judgment bond to secure the payment of the money. If the money was mine, I know your standing so well, and have such confidence in your honor, that I would not of course ask any security, but my friend positively forbids my lending his money without security." "Have you the impudence to ask security of me, Mr. Fairport? I will pay the premium for the draft, and give you my bond for the money; but as for giving you a judgment as security, you may go to h-- for it." "Very well, as you please, Major; I must follow my instructions." St. John left the office in a great rage; but, as Fairport evidently foresaw, in a few minutes he came back and agreed to give the judgment. They went out immediately
to Mr. Grip's office, where the bond and warrant of attorney was executed, and the money paid. St. John left Raleigh about the middle of June, in the southern flash style of that day: he took with him two slaves, an elegant pair of bay horses, which he drove tandem, and a splendid gig, manufactured in Boston, and which he had purchased at an exorbitant price of Fairport. To Maria and myself, and indeed I may say to his own wife, his departure afforded sincere pleasure. Every thing at the old mansion of Colonel Boyd was now quiet and peaceful; even the countenance of the field-slave was lighted up with animation and joy. But alas! the physical powers of Laura were fatally impaired: nothing could revive her, or restore to her eye its lustre or the bloom to her cheek. In vain did she try to enliven her spirits by conversation with Maria, or amuse herself with the infantile developments of her child. Her mind as well as her corporeal powers continued, in spite of all the efforts of my wife, myself, and all her domestic servants, to be more and more oppressed.
In the month of August Mr. Smith received a letter from the treasurer of Princeton College, stating that upon examining the accounts of that institution, a charge had been found against Edward Melbourn for one quarter's board and incidentals, which by mistake had not been settled when he left that Institution: the treasurer therefore requested Mr. Smith's attention to the claim. Mr. Smith consulted with me about it; and as we doubted whether the accountant of the College had not himself committed an error, knowing as we did the extreme accuracy with which Edward transacted all his pecuniary affairs, and as it was difficult at that time to transmit with safety drafts for money from one part of the country to another, it was concluded that I should make a journey to Princeton and settle the claim. I therefore lost no time in preparing for the journey, and anticipated much pleasure in viewing Philadelphia and New York, those great cities of
which I had heard so much, as well as that ancient and venerable seat of science, Princeton College. For this reason I made preparations for the journey with the ardor and vivacity of a boy; but when the morning arrived on which I was to leave home, and was about to bid farewell to my wife and child, a melancholy presentiment suddenly oppressed my mind; and as I held them to my heart, a chill of horror seized me, which was then as now, to me unaccountable. I felt that I was bidding farewell, perhaps a last farewell, to all that was dear to me on earth. There are probably few persons who have not some time in their lives experienced similar sensations; and the kind of sensations which are remembered, generally prove to be presages of evil. It may be that we remember only those evil forebodings which happen afterwards to be realized; or it may be "there is a divinity that stirs within us," which warns us of approaching suffering and danger. I am neither a believer in witchcraft nor prodigies, yet with the scholar Horatio I do believe "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy." Maria perceived the depression of my spirits, and endeavored to cheer me; but notwithstanding the lively airs which she assumed, I saw that something lay heavy at her heart. After leaving the door she called me back to repeat to me that she should expect me in three weeks at farthest. But my absence was prolonged; for on arriving at Princeton, the treasurer was gone on a journey to Massachusetts, and I was obliged to wait his return.
On the evening that my business was closed with the treasurer of the college, a servant at the hotel brought me a letter which by the superscription I knew to be from Maria, and hastily opening it, read the following words, which were written in so much haste that they were scarcely legible.
"Come home immediately; my dear mistress is dead; I am sold, and to-morrow shall be carried to New Orleans. Mr. Parker will tell you where our little Edward is; I dare not write about it. This letter may be broken open, and may never reach you. I shall never see you more, but I can die contented if Edward gets into your hands. Adieu, forever! May our Heavenly Father take care of you.
While reading these lines my brain seemed to whirl like a top: for a moment my sight failed. I knew not what I did. I called for the landlord, and told him he must send me to Philadelphia that night; but while yet speaking with him, the mail-stage came to the door. I instantly paid my bill, mounted on the driver's seat, and urged him to drive with all possible speed. I stopped neither to sleep nor eat until after my arrival in Raleigh. I heard vague rumors, on the way, of the failure of Mr. St. John, of the sale of his property, and the death of his wife. On arriving at Raleigh, I immediately ran to the Rev. Mr. Parker, because Maria had referred me to him, and Mr. Smith was then absent on a mission in the State of Missouri, having left home four or five weeks before, and was not expected to return until the next December. Mr. Parker was fortunately in his study, and he immediately informed me of the distressing events which had occurred in my absence.
About the 20th of August, a few days after my departure for the North, Mr. Fairport received news from a Boston correspondent, then at Saratoga, that St. John, upon arriving at Saratoga Springs, had set up a style of living most profusely expensive; that he spent both his days and nights in the wildest scenes of dissipation; and that finally he had fallen in with a gang of notorious swindlers,
who at the gaming-table had robbed him of all his money, amounting, as was understood, to several thousand dollars; and that, with a view to retrieve his losses, he had staked his horses, equipage, servants, and even his watch and wearing apparel, and lost all. Upon receiving this intelligence, Fairport lost no time in suing out an execution against St. John, and directed the sheriff to levy and sell all his household furniture, slaves, and other personal property. The sheriff thereupon entered the house, lately the property of Colonel Boyd, and without much ceremony proceeded to seize and make an inventory of every thing he could find there. Mrs. St. John, whose spirits were already crushed by disappointments and grief, enfeebled and worn out with sickness, upon learning that the property of her father was all to be seized and sold for the debts of her unfeeling and worthless husband, sunk under the blow. She was seized with convulsions and died in two days. Maria never left the room of her beloved mistress, but continued with her to the last, and followed her remains to the grave. A few moments before Laura expired, her senses returned; she called Maria to her, took her hand--"My dear friend," said she, "I am going to join my father and mother;" and she faintly added, "My dear Edward;--do not grieve for me, my only distress is for you. I see nothing but misery before you in this world. I know what they intend to do with you. My last recollections are, a conversation I overheard about you. Oh! these wicked laws of my native State! There is no help--you must seek for comfort in another world--write to your husband--tell him to come quick." She could not finish the sentence, but shortly after breathed a prayer for Maria, and her pure soul took its flight. After the funeral service, which was performed by Mr. Parker, Maria informed him of her situation, and begged his advice and assistance, which he readily promised. She told him that herself and child had been seized by the sheriff, and were to be sold in two days,
and to be taken, as she supposed, to the South. Mr. Parker had heard that the sheriff had secured the other slaves for fear of their escape, and advised Maria to bring Edward to his house that night, and he would at any rate conceal him until my arrival, believing it would be much easier and safer to secrete the child, in case the sheriff would not postpone the sale, than both the mother and the child. Maria gladly embraced the offer, saying she cared not for any thing that would befall herself, if her child could. be safe, and immediately after dark she brought Edward to Mr. Parker. On her way returning to the house, the thought struck her that possibly she might conceal herself until my return, which was expected in a few days. As she was about to turn off her road, one of the sheriff's officers met her, as he was on his return from the Mansion-house, whither he had been in search of her. He immediately seized and hurried her to his own house, where she was manacled and thrown into a dark room in the cellar, and the door locked.
Early the next morning Mr. Parker called on the sheriff and requested him to postpone the sale of Maria and her child till my return. The sheriff said he would do nothing without the order of Mr. Fairport or his attorney. Mr. P. then went to Mr. Fairport, who referred him to Mr. Grip. He next went to Mr. Grip's office, where he found the lawyer in close consultation with G. W. Johnson, the son of Major Johnson, with whom the reader is already acquainted. As Mr. Parker entered the room, he heard Johnson saying something about the high price of yellow girls in New Orleans. He knew that Johnson was a speculator in negroes, and it instantly occurred to him that the subject of their conversation was the purchase of Maria, with the intention of taking her to New Orleans, where her beauty and accomplishments would command a high price. The thought filled him with horror, and he resolved at any sacrifice to prevent it.
Mr. Parker stated briefly the object of his visit, reminding
Mr. Grip of my circumstances and ample pecuniary means; that no one would pay a higher price than the husband and father, and urged him to defer the sale till my return, which was daily expected. Mr. Grip listened most respectfully, and replied mildly but firmly, that his client would probably lose much money by St. John, and that he could on no account interrupt the proceedings of the sheriff. "Then," said Mr. P., "I will myself bid off the mother and child." "Really, Mr. Grip, you ought to comply with the wishes of the reverend gentleman; your client cannot be a loser by it," said Johnson, and a significant look passed between the two friends. After some further conversation, Grip finally remarked that it was very probable Julius would be at home before the sale; that there were many articles to be sold; that the sale would occupy more than one day, and he would see that Maria was not sold the first day; and in the mean time some arrangement could be made. With these assurances, Mr. Parker was fain to be content, and he went immediately to the mansion of Colonel Boyd, in search of Maria, but found no one there except a man in whose charge the sheriff had left the premises. He inquired for Maria, but could obtain no intelligence of her. She was not among the slaves, nor could she be heard of in the village; he therefore concluded she had secreted herself for a few days, and the good man waited with great anxiety the result. The succeeding day, which was the time on which the sale had been noticed, he was careful to attend, being apprehensive that something might be wrong. On arriving at the house about five minutes after the time noticed for the commencement of selling, and inquiring of one of the deputies whether Maria had been heard of, he was informed that one or two minutes before she had been put up at auction, and struck off to George W. Johnson.*
* The law which permits slaves to be sold on execution, which, by the by, results from the doctrine that "slaves are property," is perhaps the greatest outrage on humanity which is tolerated by any part of the system of Southern slavery. It wrests, by the force of law, from the humane master the care and control of his servants, and puts men, women, and children, against their will and wishes, in the power of unprincipled and unfeeling speculators.
He resolved to ascertain the truth, and
* The law which permits slaves to be sold on execution, which, by the by, results from the doctrine that "slaves are property," is perhaps the greatest outrage on humanity which is tolerated by any part of the system of Southern slavery. It wrests, by the force of law, from the humane master the care and control of his servants, and puts men, women, and children, against their will and wishes, in the power of unprincipled and unfeeling speculators.
at length found her handcuffed and in charge of Johnson. Mr. P. knew it was in vain to reproach him, and calmly inquired how much over his bid he would take for the woman. "I will not," said he, "take any money for her; I beg of you, Reverend Sir, to quiet your conscience; she is my property, and, thank God, the laws of good old North Carolina protect the property of all." "Poor Maria was inconsolable; and I left her," continued Mr. Parker, "to make known her case, and rally my friends to take some means to prevent Johnson's taking her out of the country. Every man whom I addressed was fired with indignation at Grip and the sheriff, and especially at Johnson, whose character was well known. A number of us agreed to go in company the next morning, and insist that for a reasonable consideration she should be given up. We went early to the house where he lodged, but were informed that at nine o'clock the evening before he had started with Maria and ten slaves for the South. We could do nothing more, and since that have never heard from her."
Upon hearing my worst apprehensions confirmed by this narration of Mr. Parker, I raved like a madman. My passions were excited to a perfect phrensy. A few moments' reflection, however, calmed that phrensy into gloomy despair, for it occurred to me that from Raleigh to New Orleans, the civil and military authorities were by law required to sustain these wretches in the outrages contemplated, as well as those already committed, upon my unhappy wife. In the delirium of my rage, I cursed the State which could tolerate laws so palpably in violation of human rights and the law of God,
and I imprecated vengeance on the perpetrators of these infernal crimes.
It would swell this volume to an unreasonable and inconvenient size, if the story of Mr. Melbourn were to be continued in his own words; but in order that his reminiscences which are contained in the following sheets may be the better understood, the editor takes leave to state briefly:
That Mr. Melbourn, with as little delay as possible, by the aid of Mr. Parker, effected the purchsae and emancipation of his infant son, and, as soon as this was accomplished, he started in pursuit of his wife, taking the same route which Mr. Johnson, the purchaser of Maria, had pursued with her and the gang of negroes he had bought for the New Orleans market. So many British cruisers were then hovering about the Southern coast, (for the reader will please to recollect that this was in the year 1813, when the last war with Great Britain was raging,) that Johnson dared not transport his slaves by water, but took them by land, through the interior of South Carolina and Georgia, and the then wilderness territories of Alabama and Mississippi, to Natchez. Melbourn did not overtake the company until they arrived at that place. Immediately on his arrival, and before he had seen his wife, Johnson discovered him, and forthwith went before a magistrate and swore that Melbourn was born a slave to his father.*
* Mr. Melbourn, being to all appearance a white man, an oath in his case was necessary, which would not have been the case had he been black.--Editor
Melbourn was thereupon arrested and thrown into jail as a fugitive slave.
* Mr. Melbourn, being to all appearance a white man, an oath in his case was necessary, which would not have been the case had he been black.--Editor
In his haste to pursue and overtake his wife, he had forgotten to take with him written evidence of his emancipation. He was therefore detained in a dungeon and in chains, debarred from all communication with any human being but the jailer, until he could send to Raleigh and procure documentary
proof that he was a freeman. By the kindness of the jailer and the aid of money he had with him, he was enabled to send a messenger to Raleigh, who in due time returned with the certificate of his emancipation. But the journey to Raleigh and return to Natchez could not be, and was not at that time in fact accomplished in less time than three months. It ought to have been mentioned, that a few hours after the arrival of Melbourn at Natchez, Maria, with the other slaves, were embarked on board of a boat for New Orleans.
Upon being set at liberty, Mr. Melbourn went immediately to New Orleans. When he came to that city, he learned that the greater part of Johnson's slaves had been disposed of at auction, but that Maria had been sold for a great price at private sale, to a gentleman by the name of McGuire; that in less than a week she was again sold on an execution against McGuire, and bid off for a planter, who resided about fifty miles from New Orleans, by one Perry, an eastern adventurer, who was the planter's overseer. Thither Mr. Melbourn immediately went; but on his arrival at the residence of the planter, he heard, to his unspeakable grief, that Maria had, from the time she was carried there, been afflicted with a deep melancholy; and about a month before that time, had made her escape from the house in the evening and drowned herself in the river. Though her body could not be found, the place where she perpetrated the act had been ascertained by the marks which remained of her footsteps on the brink of the river, and some of the clothes that she wore from the house were found on the shore near where her tracks were discovered. A negro woman, belonging to the family, had preserved such of her clothes as were found, which she produced and exhibited to Mr. Melbourn. Upon examining them, he found pinned in her frock-bosom the following stanza, in the handwriting of Maria, and which he recollected
to have read in one of the periodicals belonging to Mrs. St. John:
"Shall they bury me in the deep,
Where wind-forgetting waters sleep?
Shall they dig a grave for me
Under the green-wood tree?
Or on the wild heath,
Where the wilder breath
Of the storm doth blow?
Oh, no! oh, no!"
"There was now nothing on earth," says Mr. Melbourn in his memoirs, "which attached me to life except my son. The succession of misfortunes that befell this innocent woman, without any fault or even imprudence of her own, (unless her last act was a fault,) and her melancholy end, impressed me with feelings the most painful; and it was at that time exceedingly difficult for me to reconcile her fate with the belief of an overruling Providence, of a merciful and just God."
Melbourn now abandoned in utter despair all further search for his wife, and returned, as may well be supposed, with a heavy heart and bruised and broken spirit, to Raleigh. There he remained until the year 1815, when he became twenty-five years old, and when, in pursuance of the directions contained in the will of Mrs. Melbourn, he took possession of the estate which had been bequeathed to him by that worthy and excellent lady. That estate had, by the careful management of Mr. Smith, and by a judicious investment during the war in U. S. stocks, then 20 per cent. below par, by this time accumulated so that it amounted to upwards of $30,000.
Mr. Melbourn having caused that sum to be safely invested, and made suitable provision for the nurture and education of his son, determined to spend his time principally in travelling; and in order to avoid the risk he would be compelled to incur, he declined entering into any commercial
business. He had no disposition to form any intimate social connection; indeed, his African blood precluded him from mingling in polished and elegant circles on a footing of equality, and his own self-respect restrained him from associating with any persons on any other terms.
To his ardent mind the northern cities presented the strongest attraction, and he therefore determined to spend the greater part of his time in them, not as a citizen of the city in which he might sojourn, but as a citizen of the world--a mere "looker on in Venice." In pursuance of this determination, he actually spent nearly the whole of the twenty years following in travelling and in observing men and manners; and his reminiscences of the observations then made by him on what he saw and heard, are contained in the following sheets, written down by him, as it would seem, after he emigrated to England.
But to conclude Mr. Melbourn's account of his own life, we must here add, that after his son Edward left college, he solicited of his father permission to visit New Orleans, a city rendered deeply interesting to him, because that city and its vicinity had been the scene of the suffering and awful death of his mother. To this Mr. Melbourn not only consented, but agreed to accompany him; and on the 10th day of April, 1835, they left Philadelphia, where they then temporarily resided, for the great city of the Mississippi Valley.
Upon the arrival of Mr. Melbourn and his son at New Orleans, they inquired for, and soon learned the place of residence of Mr. De Lisle, the planter to whom Maria was sold, and forthwith visited him.
The residue of Melbourn's history is brief, and therefore we shall copy his own words from his manuscript, with this single remark--that what he says towards the close of it, in relation to the United States as compared with Great Britain, may be, and probably is, unjust as respects this country, and too highly laudatory of Great Britain; but when the liberal-minded
reader recollects his position in society in the United States, and his sufferings under our laws and civil institutions, he will find, if not a justification of Mr. M.'s allegations and opinions, at least an excuse for his prejudices.
Mr. Melbourn, in his autobiography, says:
Mr. De Lisle was quite an old man, and was brought with difficulty to recollect that he had ever been the owner of Maria. At length, however, he remembered her, and said she was dead. We inquired for the overseer, Perry, and were told that several years before he became embroiled in a quarrel, which occurred in a neighboring village, and was stabbed by a Spaniard. There was an old female slave who remembered Maria well. "The poor creature," she said, "cried a great deal after she came with us; I thought it was because she had to work in the field; but she told me she did not mind that, if Mr. Perry would let her alone. The evening she went away I got some good hominy and carried it to her, but she said she could not eat it. She was very handsome, and spoke in a kind, sweet voice." I asked the woman if she knew where Maria was drowned. She said she did, and at my request her mistress permitted her to go with us to point out the place. The road passed near the bank of the river at the spot pointed out. "And here," said she, "is the very tree her frock hung on. Lordy! how much it has grown; it was then but a bush." Edward's eyes were filled with tears. I stood like a statue, unable to move or speak,--all my first love revived in my bosom. At that time how poor, "flat and unprofitable seemed to me all the uses of this world." The source of my happiness was dried up. Hope itself was extinguished.
We lingered some time around that fatal spot, that last trace of my ill-fated Maria. At length, entering the carriage, we rode about twenty miles, and stopped at a small village on the road to New Orleans, where we designed to remain until the next day. The evening being very pleasant, after
tea I walked through the village, which was beautifully situated on the bank of the river. In returning to my lodgings I passed a small brick building, having the appearance of a Methodist chapel. A religious assembly were gathered there, and were then singing a hymn. To see what kind of people were collected on this occasion, and to wear away a part of the evening, I stepped into the house. It being quite full, I took a seat near the door. Among the singers was a woman in the dress of a Quaker, with a hymn-book in her hand, on which her eyes were intently fixed, whose features forcibly brought Maria to my remembrance. I looked again; the resemblance was so perfect, that, forgetting for a moment the impossibility of her being alive, a faintness came over me. It soon occurred to my mind that it was an illusion of fancy, produced by the scenes so recently visited. I involuntarily groaned audibly. The woman looked up and saw me. She instantly turned pale, gave a piercing shriek, and fell to the floor. "Mighty God!" I exclaimed, "it is--it is my Maria!" Regardless of the proceedings of the meeting and every one around me, I sprang towards her and raised her in my arms. The congregation was in confusion: some ran for water, others seized hold of me, until at length I recovered sufficient recollection to say that this was my wife, whom I had for many years believed dead. I caressed her and called her by name. At the sound of my voice, so long unheard, she revived, and uttered a few incoherent words; every effort was made to restore her--but for some time her mind was much bewildered. She would cry out, "Take care! take care! there they come to take me away! where is my dagger? I will never go alive!" I will not continue a description of this scene. She at length became calm; her first inquiry after the return of her reason, was for her child. I told her he was alive and well, but dare not tell her he was so near. Maria fell on her knees and poured forth a prayer of thanks-giving and praise. It was eloquent, because it was the over-flowing
of her heart. The whole audience joined her, and responded with an audible "amen." Maria was conveyed to her home near by the chapel, and I hastened to seek Edward with the joyful intelligence that his mother lived. He could not be restrained from seeing her that night, and I returned to prepare her for the interview. I will not attempt to describe the affecting scene which followed. Maria was constantly distressed by the fear of being discovered; and so long had she endured life without hope, that it was with difficulty she could be made to believe that I had abundant means to procure her ransom, and that no possible danger could be apprehended. The reader may imagine how happy and quiet that night was the sleep of this long-persecuted being, this victim of slavery.
The story of Maria can be told in a few words. After she was purchased by Perry for Mr. De Lisle, as I have before related, she was taken to his plantation and put with a gang of field-slaves, where her fatigue, privations, and sufferings were severe, almost beyond description. But even these sufferings were imbittered by the rude treatment she met with from the other slaves. Their hostility to her was occasioned by the circumstance that she kept aloof from them. This hostility exhibited itself in various ways. Every thing that was done wrong, or which was left undone which was required to be done, was charged upon her, and she was scourged daily. Perry, who had behaved to her with brutal indecency, had commanded her to come to his room more than once, which she had peremptorily refused to do. On the day previous to the evening of her escape, she was told by a female slave that Perry had given directions to two of the men to bring her by force to his room at eleven o'clock that evening.
From the time of the sale of McGuire's effects, Maria had abandoned all hope of ever again seeing me or her child. Since she was brought to the plantation and compelled to labor
in the field, with the poor and scanty food allowed her, besides suffering daily from the whip of the unmerciful task-master, she felt that her life would soon be ended, and she reasoned that it was preferable to die pure and uncontaminated, than to wear out the few days which might be allotted to her in infamy and wo. The struggle was long in her mind, but this last intelligence drove her to desperation, and in the evening she silently left the cabin and descended to the river, determined to find her grave there. That it might be known what had become of her, she divested herself of some articles of her dress, and hung them on a bush. The road at that place approaches near the river; and at that point is a bluff of land which rises suddenly, so that a person travelling the road cannot be seen many yards from the place where Maria stood. It was a calm moonlight night. She had taken, as she believed, a last look upon the earth and sky, and ejaculated a prayer for her husband and son. At the moment she was about to take the fatal plunge, a gig, in which was a lady and servant, came in sight. "Stop," said the lady, in a firm voice, "what is thee doing?" Maria instantly recognised the language of a Quaker, having been acquainted with some members of a society of Friends in North Carolina, and she knew that they were not only friends to each other, but friends of man and of the slave. She instantly ran to the carriage and cried, "Save me! O save me! I am a wretched creature who cannot live, and ought not thus to die." In a few words she related to the lady her situation. Mrs. Benson, (for that was the name of the lady,) with great presence of mind, told her to get into the carriage, gave her a cloak to cover herself, and advised her to leave the dress hanging on a tree, as that might prevent pursuit. Mrs. Benson was the widow of a Quaker gentleman from South Carolina, who some years before had come to New Orleans and carried on mercantile business there, but had died not long before, leaving no children. His whole estate, which was not large, he
gave to his wife, and made her sole executrix. It became necessary for her to reside in Louisiana, at least until the estate was settled, and not being pleased with the noise and bustle of the city, she purchased a neat cottage near the village of La Grange, where she then resided. On the day of which we are speaking, she had been to visit a friend, who resided a little below De Lisle's plantation, and to avoid the heat of the day, concluded (providentially) to drive home that fine moonlight night. She charged the boy, a negro, who scrupulously obeyed her injunctions, never, on pain of her displeasure, to mention to any person where they had found Maria, and before morning this long-oppressed but unoffending woman was lodged in a neat secluded room in the cottage of Mrs. Benson.
The following morning that good woman communicated to Maria, whose fears and anxiety had prevented her enjoying one moment's sleep, a scheme which she thought might save her. The sister of Mrs. Benson had, many years before, married a Spanish gentleman, who was a resident of Cuba. Mrs. B. proposed that Maria should pass for the daughter of that sister, who had come to visit and remain with her as a companion. As the complexion of Maria was not darker, nor indeed quite so dark as a majority of the descendants of the Spaniards on that island, she thought it not difficult successfully to carry out the scheme. Mrs. B. furnished her with suitable dresses, and as she was not supposed to be able to speak either English or French, the only languages spoken in the village and its vicinity, she was for a long time relieved from joining in any conversation which took place in her presence.
The plan was entirely successful; and very soon Maria, who was supposed to have drowned herself, was forgotten by Mr. De Lisle and his people. Maria concluded that I was dead; and she conjectured, not without reason, that I had been murdered by Johnson or some of his agents, in the
neighborhood of Natchez. At all events, she was confident of my death, on account of my not coming to New Orleans, after having pursued her so near that city as Natchez. Her anxiety about the fate of her child was intense; but what could she do? She dared not attempt a journey of one thousand miles through slaveholding states. It was certain she would, in the attempt to execute such a project, be taken up and recaptured, or sold as a slave. Mrs. Benson entirely concurred in this opinion. To write by mail to Raleigh was equally hazardous. Mr. Smith and Mr. Parker were the only persons to whom she dare communicate the fact of her existence. The letter might be opened by the postmasters, or the gentlemen might be dead or removed; and if by any means her existence was discovered, slavery was her inevitable doom. These considerations, long before I found her, had determined her to live and die under the protection of Mrs. Benson, and that her secret should die with her.
I rendered my thanks to Mrs. Benson with deep feelings of reverence and gratitude. I begged her to accept of some reward, which she refused, but I quite forced upon her a sum of money. In order that my long-lost wife might become my own property, and that no chances hereafter might be left for her last owner or his heirs to claim her, I returned with Maria to the house of Mr. De Lisle, and informed him of her existence, and in a brief manner made him acquainted with her history and my own. He listened attentively during the recital, and showed evidence of much feeling and kindness of heart. I proposed to restore him the money paid for Maria, with the interest from that time, and requested him to make a conveyance of her to me. "No," said the generous old Frenchman, "you have both had trouble enough--I will take nothing." I remonstrated with him without effect; he sent for a scrivener, and executed a bill of sale of Maria to me. On receiving it, I could not refrain from taking Maria in my arms, saying, "Now, indeed, you are mine by the
laws of God and man." She could not utter a word, but her countenance was lighted up with a smile, and her eyes swam in tears.
Maria found old Dinah, the female slave who had shown her some kindness, and gave her thanks for her services, and offers of any favors we could bestow. I proposed to purchase her freedom; but Dinah said she was old, and loved her mistress, who was now infirm, and needed the attendance of an old faithful servant. Freedom would have been sweet to her in youth, but now she was old, and chose to die in the service of her kind mistress. The old gentleman was delighted with this answer. I did not urge my offer, but made her a present of several eagles.
The parting of Maria with Mrs. Benson was tenderly affecting; her last words to her were, "Remember, my child, never again to distrust Providence--never doubt that our heavenly Father will do all for the best; and we," said she, looking at me, "shall be convinced of it, either in this world or the world to come." At New Orleans we stopped a few days, where I proposed to purchase for my wife such dresses as became her present condition; but she insisted then, and always afterwards, on dressing according to the custom of the Quakers.
One day a servant brought me a note, signed George W. Johnson, and dated at New Orleans jail. He stated, that having heard of my being in the city, he took leave to inform me that he was in jail on a criminal charge; that he had lost all his estate, was entirely destitute of money, and should inevitably be sent to the penitentiary unless he could raise a little money to defray the expenses of his defence. He acknowledged he did not deserve any favors of me, but he had no friend to apply to; adding, that my generosity was well known, which had emboldened him to make the application to me. Though I regarded him as a monster of vice and crime, and in an especial manner despised his meanness
of spirit, yet he was the son of the man in whose house I was born, and whatever were his former crimes, he was now a fellow-being in distress. I therefore sent him fifty dollars. It was said he had wasted a large fortune by gambling and dissipation; that eventually he took charge of a faro-table, and had been guilty of swindling, for which offence he was indicted and then in jail. He was convicted on trial.
I cannot omit to relate another circumstance which took place while we remained in New Orleans. Walking one day near the river, a little above the batteau, I saw some white men chasing two negroes, who were running towards the river--and when they came to it, plunged in. The white men procured a boat and rowed after them. The exhausted strength of one of the fugitives began to flag, and he fell behind the other. The boatmen called for him to surrender; but he seemed to prefer death to captivity, and sunk to rise no more. The other fugitive was taken, and, together with the drowned man, was brought to the shore. I was so intently gazing on this dreadful scene, that I did not observe a gentleman standing near me, who, as soon as the party landed, and we came to them, exclaimed, on looking at the face of the dead man, "Great God! this was my own body-servant when I lived in Nantucket; he was a free citizen of Massachusetts." Upon looking at the gentleman, I recognised him at once: it was the celebrated JACOB BARKER, who then resided in New Orleans, but whom I had formerly known in New York. His feelings were deeply excited.
Jacob Barker, though as a merchant, a banker, or a politician he may have committed errors, is a man possessed of a great soul, of much magnanimity and generosity, of deep and intense sympathy for misfortune and distress. He is the bold and zealous advocate of human rights, and the uncompromising friend of the slave. For these Godlike traits in his character the recording angel will blot out with tears his errors.
One day we were discoursing on the iniquity of the laws in relation to persons of color, when he related the following circumstance. He was walking in New Orleans, and came across his old house-servant in New York, chained to a cannon-ball by one of his legs, and at work upon the public street. He asked his old friend, with astonishment, how he came in such a condition? The reply was, that he came to New Orleans in a New York vessel, in the capacity of cook, steward, or sailor, and was seized at the moment of his arrival, and imprisoned in the jail during the night, and compelled to work in the street during the day--and that they would sell him as a slave if Mr. Barker did not interfere for his relief. Mr. Barker promised to do all he could for his afflicted friend, and to visit him in his dungeon the following evening. According to his promise he called at the captive's dungeon, and while conversing with him through the diamond hole, saw five other poor northern sailors, in the same condition with his friend, shut up in the same room with him. Hopelessly separated from all human aid, they too were to be sold into perpetual slavery unless they could enlist Mr. Barker in their behalf. His sympathies were irresistibly excited, and he brought their case before the police, and after a sacrifice of several days' time, and an expense of about $35 in each of their cases, which he paid out of his own pocket, he succeeded in rescuing those wretched men from a doom worse than death.
After leaving New Orleans I travelled leisurely, stopping a few days in some of the larger towns, and, late in the summer, arrived with my wife and son at Raleigh. Our few friends there received us with the most cordial welcome, especially Maria, whom they truly considered as one raised from the dead.
I had now with me, my wife, the object of my first, my dearest affection, and my son, who possessed a highly-cultivated mind and most amiable temper. I had also, by some successful speculations, and by prudent though not parsimonious
economy, added to the $30,000 of capital that Mr. Smith in 1815 delivered into my possession, so that the whole amounted to the sum of $50,000, and yet I was not happy--not contented. The cause of my discontent grew out of my dissatisfaction with the customs and the opinions of the society in which I lived, and the laws and civil institutions of the country in which I was born. This dissatisfaction was occasioned, first, by the despotism of what is called public opinion.
If an individual, on politics, religion, morals, or the customs of society, ventures to express an opinion different from the generally received opinions of the community, though the law secures him from being, like Servetus, burnt at the stake, or hanged by the neck, as the Pilgrims did the Quakers, he is, to all intents and purposes, ostracized, he is denounced as a dangerous person; nothing said by him is entitled to the least consideration, or rather, if he expresses an opinion on any subject, it is received as prima facie evidence that such opinion and all who concur in it are wrong; his society is avoided as one avoids a person affected with a contagious disease, and not only himself, but all who speak of him or his opinion favorably, are denounced as utterly unworthy of confidence or respect.
Secondly--I was unwilling to live and die in a country where the laws sustained and justified such disregard to individual rights, and tolerated such inhumanity as was manifested in the treatment of myself and my wife; and more especially was I unwilling to spend my days in a country which enslaved and treated as goods and chattels--as brutes--at least one-sixth part of its inhabitants.
Thirdly--My son (as I thought) possessed fine talents and a mind well cultivated, but the evidence that he was allied to the negro race was stamped on his features. This circumstance was sufficient, however meritorious or talented he might be, to exclude him from all hope of promotion
to places of honor or profit, and, indeed, from any intercourse with genteel or even decent society among the white population of the country. If we should choose our residence in any of the free states of the Union, instead of bettering his condition, it would in this respect render it more hopeless; for it is a fact, which cannot be contradicted, that the prejudice against color is greater in the Northern, particularly in the New England free states, than in the Southern slaveholding states. This last consideration, I confess, had more influence on my feelings than any other. The thought was too painful, that my dear and only child, whom I knew to be virtuous, endowed with a warm heart and with vigorous intellectual powers, should be treated as belonging to an inferior race of beings. These considerations determined me to leave the United States, and pass the remainder of my days in Great Britain. My pecuniary affairs were so arranged as to require very little time for preparation to carry this resolution into effect. I procured letters to the American chargé d'affaires in London, and from several merchants in Philadelphia, to merchants in Liverpool and London, and on the first of October, 1835, with my wife and son, sailed from New York.
There was an old female slave to whom Maria was much attached, who had been sold at the auction of St. John's goods to a gentleman in Raleigh. I had purchased her freedom, and she now insisted on following my wife to England; and she continues to this day a hired servant in my family. We had a quick and pleasant passage to Liverpool. There were a great number of passengers, among whom we formed some agreeable acquaintances. It is true, that on the second day out, some ladies from Boston objected to the admission of my wife to the dinner-table, but the captain, a stiff John Bull, soon settled the matter, and the Boston ladies being informed that Mrs. Melbourn was a rich Southerner, gave up their scruples, and treated her with great politeness.
We landed at Liverpool, and after visiting Manchester, London, Bristol, and Bath, and, indeed, after travelling through most of the counties in England, having spent the winter in London, and seen many of the distinguished statesmen of this wonderful country, took up our abode at an excellent hotel in Warwick, where we still continue to reside. Warwick is a delightful town, and contains many excellent inhabitants, with whom we enjoy an intercourse both agreeable and useful. That courtesy and respect which was shown me in America in consequence of my wealth, or reluctantly yielded as condescending favor and grace, is here rendered to me as being my due, as a member of the human family, and an educated and enlightened man. The surrounding country is richly cultivated, the town of Warwick is well built, and on its borders rise the august towers, in all the sublimity of Gothic grandeur, of the ancient castle of Warwick, whence the "king-maker" in days of yore sallied forth with his thousand men-at-arms.
My son, after serving one year as a clerk, has become a partner in a respectable mercantile house in London, and I have advanced him $20,000 as his share of the capital to be used in the concern. It gives me pleasure to know that he is well received in genteel circles in London, and that the circumstance of his being connected with the African race is not regarded to his prejudice.
THE following sheets contain some of my reminiscences from the year 1815 to the year 1835, and also some reflections which have occurred to me since I have resided in England. They are of course very desultory, and inserted without much order, as to time, and without regular arrangement, as respects the subjects of remarks.
The Author sets out on his Tour to the North--Meets with Mr. St. John at Norfolk--Visits Mr. Jefferson--Dinner-party at Mr. Jefferson's--Conversation of Mr. Jefferson, Chief-Justice Marshall, Mr. Samuel Dexter, Doct. Mitchell, Mr. Wirt, and Elder John Leland, on lawyers and the practice of law, state rights, the capacity of the African race, and negro slavery in the United States.
AFTER I had completed my settlement with the executor of Mrs. Melbourn, I made preparations for a northern tour, and in July, 1815, commenced my journey. I had heard Mr. Jefferson so much talked of, had read so much about him in the newspapers, and so much of his own writings, of which I was a great admirer, that my curiosity was intense to see and converse with that great man. At my request Mr. Pendleton*
* Mr. Pendleton was a lawyer, who resided in North Carolina, mentioned by Mr. Melbourn in a part of his Autobiography which the Editor in the sketch prefixed to this work has omitted.
gave me a letter of introduction to him, which was the only letter I took with me. Mr. Pendleton, according to my express desire, in his communication to Mr. Jefferson stated briefly my history, or so much of it as was necessary, to apprize him that I was born a slave, and that I was partially of African descent.
* Mr. Pendleton was a lawyer, who resided in North Carolina, mentioned by Mr. Melbourn in a part of his Autobiography which the Editor in the sketch prefixed to this work has omitted.
I travelled by stage-coach on the old route to Norfolk, in Virginia. In this city I saw Mr. St. John. He had become corpulent, and was almost incapable of locomotion, stupid, and brutally senseless. He was a loathsome
monument of intemperance, and a lamentable specimen of those wretched creatures who ought to serve as beacons to warn young men against indulgence in idleness, intemperance, and vice. St. John, I understood, was supported by a small allowance paid to him quarterly by a brother of his father. He was sunk so low as to ask me to lend him twenty-five cents. I gave him a dollar.
From Norfolk I went to Monticello, and on my arrival there was much gratified to learn that Mr. Jefferson was at home. I was conducted to his study, or reading-room, where I found him sitting at a table covered with books and papers. He rose when I entered, and received me with great politeness and apparent cordiality. I instantly found myself at perfect ease in his presence. Though he was not, and I presume never had been, a handsome man, there was such strong evidence of high intellectual power in his high forehead, and in the form of his face and head, that I could not fail of admiring him. A philosophical calmness and a glow of benevolence were so visibly expressed in his countenance, and so distinctly marked every feature of his face, that while he was reading Mr. Pendleton's letter, and before he had uttered a word, I was charmed with him, and loved him as an old and familiar friend. I suppose that part of Mr. Pendleton's letter, which stated that I was born a slave, and was of African descent, excited his curiosity, for he immediately commenced a conversation, evidently with a view to ascertain the strength of my mind, and to what degree it had been cultivated. He inquired of me whether I had seen the building then lately erected for the University of Virginia, and said he intended it should be free for the instruction of all sects and colors. He expressed his deep anxiety for the improvement of the minds, and elevation
of the characters of, as he was pleased to call them, "our colored brethren." He then spoke of the state of English and American literature, and of some of the most eminent authors, whose books generally constitute the private libraries of gentlemen in England and the United States; pausing at such points as were calculated to call out a reply from me--no doubt for the purpose of ascertaining what I had read, and what reflections I had made. I recollect of expressing, in the course of our conversation, a very high opinion of Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws, and of Hume as an historian. He said he thought "Montesquieu was too partial to the British constitution; it was his beau ideal of a perfect government, in which," said he, "it is well known I differ widely from him. Montesquieu, however," he said, "ought to be excused, for the British constitution, if that may be called a constitution which is unwritten, and which concedes unrestricted and omnipotent power to the executive and legislative departments, when combined, was unquestionably the freest and best in the world, when Montesquieu wrote. There is less excuse for the eulogy pronounced by my old friend, Mr. John Adams, on the British constitution, in his defence of the American government, because Mr. Adams wrote after the elaborate discussions respecting human rights, and the principles of government, which occurred during the American revolution."
"Mr. Hume," said Mr. Jefferson, "was a profound and subtle reasoner, and an acute metaphysician; as an historian, too, he is very able, and arranges, systematizes, and generalizes with great skill and talent, but he wrote to please the English aristocracy; and I think from high veneration, and perhaps innate love for hereditary power, he imbibed such a contempt for the masses, that he became
insensible to human rights; or rather, he seems to have forgotten that they had any rights, or if they had, he believed that they were utterly incapable of judging of what was for their best good. He labors through the whole of his history to represent the actions of the masses as absurd, and to cast ridicule and contempt upon all their attempts to regain their natural rights. It is painful that so profound a thinker, and so able a philosopher as David Hume, should have finally settled down in the professed belief that the fitness of things required that an immense majority of men should be slaves to a pitiful minority of their brethren. His veneration and love for the aristocracy, increased, perhaps, by his pecuniary interest, (and if so, he was mean as well as unprincipled,) induced in his mind conclusions which rendered him (Mr. Jefferson here spoke with some warmth) a traitor to human nature."
I remained in the neighborhood of Monticello nearly a week, and spent a portion of every day in Mr. Jefferson's library, at his pressing invitation. On Tuesday before I left these quiet philosophical shades, I received a card from Mr. Jefferson, inviting me to dine with him in company with a few friends the next day at four o'clock. I went to his house and found there Chief-Justice Marshall, Mr. Wirt, Mr. Samuel Dexter of Boston, and Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell of New York. The Chief-Justice had come into the neighborhood on some business pertaining to the University, Mr. Wirt was on his annual visit to Mr. Jefferson, and Mr. Dexter and Dr. Mitchell being on a tour to South Carolina, so arranged their journey as on their way to call on the old sage at Monticello. I was announced as a young gentleman from North Carolina,--introduced by Mr. Pendleton, who was well known to most of the persons present.
It will be recollected that in the year 1798, Judge Marshall was a Virginia Federalist, that he was a favorite of the then President, Mr. John Adams, who appointed him Ambassador to France, Secretary of State, and afterwards Chief-Justice of the United States. It is only necessary to remark, that before and during the presidency of Mr. Jefferson, in consequence of political differences, a coldness had existed between him and the Chief-Justice; and I could perceive for a time some restraint in the deportment of the latter when addressing the former. Mr. Dexter was, during the presidency of the elder Adams, an ardent Federalist and Secretary of the War Department. After the election of Mr. Jefferson in 1800, he retired from the field of politics, and devoted himself to the practice of law, and at the time I first saw him, was regarded as one of the most, if not the most eloquent and eminent lawyer in New England. During the war which had just closed, Mr. Dexter, without abandoning any of the political doctrines which he held when in an executive department under Mr. Adams, differed from his party generally; for he thought it the duty of every American citizen to support with his influence and money the government in the prosecution of the war, while the great body of New England Federalists carried their opposition to the administration of the general government so far, that they discouraged enlistments in the American army, and refused to loan a dollar of their money to aid in carrying on the war on the credit of the government. Dr. Mitchell was a very learned man, passionately devoted to the natural sciences. He had been a Democratic senator of the United States when Mr. Jefferson was president. He was an admirer, I was going to say an adorer, of the late president, because he was a republican, and
more especially because he was a philosopher. I can, in my mind's eye, see the good old Doctor now; his large corpulent form, his fine good-natured, honest face, with his well-powdered hair and neat little queue nicely folded in a riband suspended on the collar of his coat, seem full in my view. Of Mr. Wirt, I need not speak otherwise than to say he was one of the most amiable of men. His talents are universally known and acknowledged, though, to say truth, he was a little too fanciful, or rather the brilliancy of his imagination was such that it sometimes dazzled the eyes of his understanding. There was also there one other remarkable man from the North. It was Elder John Leland, who sent Mr. Jefferson the great cheese. He was a Baptist minister, who then lived in the western part of Massachusetts. He was very zealous, both as a politician and sectarian, and was a man of some wit. He was the author of a pamphlet entitled "Jack Nips on Infant Baptism," which had, at the time it was published, an extensive circulation in the eastern states, where questions of that nature were formerly mooted with much zeal and interest. Mr. Leland would have made an excellent chaplain in Oliver Cromwell's army. All these talented men, then so gay and social, have now gone down to the grave, while I yet wander about the earth.
At dinner Mr. Jefferson introduced the conversation by inquiring of Mr. Dexter how the appointment of Judge Story to the Bench of the United States was received by the people of Massachusetts. Mr. Dexter said, "extremely well." Dr. Mitchell remarked, that when Judge Story's name was before the senate, it was alleged that, although he was a man of genius, he was not a sound lawyer. "It was said so elsewhere," replied Mr. Dexter, "and he is truly a man of genius, but, in my judgment, he is also an able
lawyer. The fact of his being known as a fine writer, has heretofore prevented his being appreciated in his profession as he deserves. A man whom the public allow to be a great lawyer, they will not permit to be any thing else. Had not Judge Story been known to the public as a poet, he would, before this time, have occupied a higher rank as a learned jurist."*
* The reader will remember that this conversation took place in 1815, before Judge Story was much known as a judge, and before the publication of any of his works on civil jurisprudence
"That is very odd," said Mr. Jefferson, "but, nevertheless, I believe it is true. If, however, in this the public err, the error, in my judgment, in a great measure, is chargeable on the lawyers themselves. They have, by their technicalities, enveloped the science of law in mystery. Justice between man and man is plain and obvious to right-minded men possessed of common sense; but, according to men of the law, it is to be measured out in pursuance of technical rules which they have created. It is not sufficient that the judgment of the judge be sustained by those reasons which strike every man as being founded upon good sense. Sir Edward Cooper says it must be learned reason. In other words, justice must be manufactured by the lawyer, secundum artem, as the mechanic constructs a watch. When, therefore, the public become suspicious that the lawyer is pursuing some other trade besides that of the manufacturing of justice, it is natural they should turn their attention to some other person of the same trade who devotes himself entirely to his business."
* The reader will remember that this conversation took place in 1815, before Judge Story was much known as a judge, and before the publication of any of his works on civil jurisprudence
"Really, Mr. President," said Mr. Dexter, "I think if you will allow your mind to revert back prior to the American Revolution, when you were in the practice of law, you will perceive that many of those rules you call
technical, and of which you now disapprove, were essential guards to the innocent, and very important to the correct administration of justice."
"I admit," said Mr. Jefferson, "that general principles, or rules if you please, ought to be well fixed in the mind of the lawyer; and I insist that in the proper application of those rules to particular cases consists the skill and merit of the lawyer. It is the multiplication of arbitrary rules, and the rigid adherence to them, of which I complain. A large portion of forensic debates is about names, instead of principles, or facts. The sloop Polly, in descending the Potomac, runs upon the sloop Hope, and in a moment ruins her owner. He commences an action of trespass against the owner of the sloop Polly, and because he has called his action trespass, instead of trespass on the case, is cast in the suit, and amerced in a heavy bill of costs. This, to my mind, is manifestly wrong, and yet thousands of cases of this kind occur, and discussions respecting them occupy a large portion of the time of our courts and the labor of the lawyer. More general science, and more common sense, should be mingled with the technical learning of the legal practitioner. While I administered the United States government I endeavored to reduce this doctrine to practice by the manner in which I selected the judges of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Michigan. That court was composed of three judges. I selected for one of them Mr. Woodworth of Virginia. He had spent his life in the study of natural and moral philosophy, and really was a man of great general knowledge." "So he was," interrupted Dr. Mitchell, "I knew him well. I have read his theory of the tides of the Lakes with great pleasure." "Though," continued Mr. Jefferson, "I confess Judge
Woodworth was a little visionary. Another of these judges I selected from Pennsylvania. He was a dry technical lawyer, and would not believe two and two made four, unless you could prove it by an adjudged case. The third was a large strong-handed and strong-minded Vermont farmer, who had, perhaps, never seen a law-book, except that which contained the statutes of Vermont, and who heartily despised all legal learning. Thus I formed a court consisting of a philosopher, a lawyer, and a clear-headed common sense Vermont farmer."
Chief-Justice Marshall, who had sat profoundly silent, though I could now and then perceive something like a phosphoric coruscation in his keen black eye, now laid down his knife and fork, and said, with a sarcastic smile, "And how did your plan operate, Mr. President; did your machine go well?" "Upon my word," said Mr. Jefferson, with great frankness, "it would not go at all." "It must have been," said Elder Leland, "like a cart with three horses hitched to it, one at each end and one at the side, all pulling in different directions." At this we all laughed heartily. Even the solemn face of the Chief-Justice was moved to risibility.
After this a conversation ensued on the conduct of the New England States during the war then lately ended. No one justified their course. Mr. Dexter regretted that the constitution had not vested the national government with greater powers in such cases. "No," said Mr. Jefferson, "I cannot join you in that; instead of adding, I would take from the general government some of the powers it already possesses and restore them to the states. I would leave to public opinion the correction of the errors into which one or more states may temporarily fall. The general government is now too strong. The independence of
the states may be crushed by it. This is a matter upon which my opinion has long been formed, and I do not believe I shall ever alter it." "I grant you," said the Chief-Justice, "that the general government in time of peace is strong--by means of its patronage, in this office-loving country, perhaps it is too strong. For here, as all men profess to love the people, all men are anxious to serve them--provided always, they can be well paid; but in time of war the case is far different. In a free government there always will be parties holding different and adverse opinions. A majority of the people of Massachusetts honestly, as I believe, for I agreed with them, thought the last war with Great Britain was unwise if not unjust, and wished to terminate it. A majority of the nation, equally honest, believed the war necessary and proper. Massachusetts, with the other New England states, exerted, as she had a right to do, all her constitutional power to place the national government in a condition which would induce it to make peace. The states severally possess all the attributes of independent governments. Each state has a legislative and executive department; it has a treasury--a judiciary--by means of its chartered banks it has, in effect, the power of coining money--and it has in its militia, whose officers it appoints, an organized army. The New England states therefore had all the means, if I may so express myself, of legalizing rebellion against the general government. They refused, as they had constitutionally the right to do, to loan their money to the nation, and in consequence of it the money of the nation, in the shape of a balance of accounts, flowed into their coffers and was there hoarded. When the news of peace arrived the credit of the general government was prostrate, its regular army was reduced
to less than eight thousand effective men, and it could not recruit that army because the national treasury was bankrupt, and not a dollar in coin could be furnished to pay to the soldier. Hence it is most evident, from experience as well as from reasoning, that the more power you confer on the individual states the more you weaken the defensive power of the nation, and the more you endanger a division of the Union." Before Mr. Jefferson had time to begin a reply, Mr. Dexter said "he did not apprehend any danger of a separation of the states from any difference of opinion as to the ordinary measures of government. The people of every state are strongly attached to the Union, and to prevent a division, both parties will always yield a little. Public opinion will force leading politicians into a compromise But there is one evil," continued Mr. Dexter, "from which I apprehend that dreadful result--I mean slavery in the southern states and the slave representation."
"Oh," said Mr. Jefferson, "dismiss your fears on that subject, slavery will soon be abolished in all the states."
"Never," said Judge Marshall, "never by the voluntary consent of the slaveholding states."
"I regret," replied Mr. Jefferson, "that so attentive an observer as you are, Chief-Justice, should entertain such an opinion. I well know that at the time American Independence was declared, no member, either north or south, expected that slavery would continue as long as it has."
"I can well believe that," said Mr. Wirt, "for they must have felt that the continuance of slavery was directly adverse to their declaration, that all men are born free and equal, &c."
"But," said Dr. Mitchell, "I very much doubt whether, according to the laws of nature, the Africans are not
formed to be subject to the Caucasian race. From my own observations I am satisfied that nature has formed an essential difference between the two races, and much to the disadvantage of the negro race."
Here the learned Doctor went into an elaborate description of the brain, which, he said, was the source of intellectual power. He spoke of the connection of the brain with the nervous system, and of his discoveries in the dissection of the heads of several negroes which he had superintended, and pointed out the difference in the development, size, and quality, between the brain of the negro and the white man, and insisted that the brain of the former was not so capable of producing intellectual power as that of the latter,--so, said the Doctor, if your position, that all men are born equal is politically true, it is physically false.
"As regards personal rights," said Mr. Jefferson, "it seems to me most palpably absurd, that the individual rights of volition and locomotion should depend on the degree of intellectual power possessed by the individual. I should hardly be willing to subscribe to the doctrine, that because the Chief-Justice has a stronger mind or a more capacious and better formed brain than I, that therefore he has a right to make me his slave. But, Doctor," continued Mr. Jefferson, "may not the diet and exercise, bodily and mentally of a child, produce some effect on the size, shape, and quality of the brain? I will suppose that my friend, Mr. Dexter, has two sons, the eldest of whom shall be six years old, as nearly alike as brothers of the age of five and six years generally are. Suppose the younger to be transferred to a rice plantation in South Carolina, placed in a negro cabin, and brought up with the field-slaves, associating only with them; and that the elder should be continued
in Mr. Dexter's family, associate with none but highly intellectual people; then let his education be completed by four years' residence and tuition at Cambridge. Look at the heads and faces of these boys when they shall respectively arrive at mature age, and then let a phrenologist, Doctor Spurzheim, if you please, pronounce upon the native intellectual power of each. Do we not all know that the difference would be immense? But to do justice to the negro race, and in order to carry out the experiment fairly, we ought to suppose that the younger has married a Caucasian slave; and let Dr. Mitchell dissect and compare the heads of the great-grandchildren of that issue with the great-grandchildren of the issue of the elder brother. I ask, what would be the result of that experiment?"
"I do not mean to advocate slavery," said the Chief-Justice--"I wish, from my soul I wish it was abolished; but when we calculate on political results, we must look at society as it is. I do not found my opinion on the perpetuity of slavery upon any natural inferiority of the negro. You are all well aware, that nearly every man at the South, who possesses any influence at our elections, is a slaveholder--and hence our legislators will be slaveholders, or under their influence. Probably nine-tenths of them will be actual slaveholders. You have then a pecuniary influence to contend with, which you cannot overcome except by force. Slaves are by law property; and do you expect that a man will, voluntarily and without consideration, surrender his property to individuals, or to the public? The British Parliament may, and probably will, abolish slavery in the West India islands; but suppose nine-tenths of that parliament should be composed of the planters of Jamaica--when, then, would slavery be
abolished in Jamaica? Mr. Dexter will, I presume, admit that banking is a monopoly, and that monopolies ought not to be tolerated; but will Mr. Dexter give up and sacrifice his bank-stock? I tell you, sir, you may as well expect that the farmers of Virginia will burn up their title deeds and give away their farms, as to give away their negroes. You, Mr. President, ascribe too much virtue and benevolence to our people, if you suppose the disposition to emancipate the negroes is increasing. You must recollect, that at the commencement of the Revolution, Chancellor Wythe and yourself were deterred from introducing a bill into the legislature for the abolition of slavery, because you became satisfied that the time had not then come when the public mind was prepared for the adoption of that measure, but you then anticipated that it would soon be reviewed more favorably by the community; your expectations, however, were not realized. And at this moment I venture to affirm, that a bill for negro emancipation would meet with a prompt and indignant condemnation. I repeat, that interest, pecuniary interest, will forever prevent the emancipation of the slave at the south. I do not say the slave ought not to be emancipated--I say he will not be emancipated."
"And I," said Mr. Leland, "say he ought not to be emancipated. I do not predicate my opinion on the anatomical discoveries of Dr. Mitchell, but I think the negroes are the children of Ham, and according to the Bible, they are doomed to be the servant of servants. Besides, I am convinced, from my own observation, and I have had a pretty good opportunity to observe, for I was two years a missionary in the slaveholding states for a Massachusetts Baptist association, that the blacks are altogether inferior to the whites. They are, I assure you, low-minded, and
beastly in their propensities. They desire nothing but to eat, drink, fiddle, laugh, sleep, and dance. For my part, I regard them as a mongrel species, half man and half ape."
While Mr. Leland was making these remarks, I could not avoid the reflection, that in this instance, as in many others, the visionary though learned philosopher, and the fanatical zealot, arrived, by an entirely different process of mental action, to the same conclusion. Extremes frequently approach near each other. I was roused from the revery occasioned by this train of thought, by Mr. Jefferson saying to Mr. Leland,--"I am happy to have it in my power at this moment to prove to you and Dr. Mitchell, by ocular demonstration, that the experience of one of you and the theory of the other, has led you to erroneous conclusions. Look at the young gentleman who sits opposite to you. In the mean time," continued he, "Mr. Melbourn, allow me the pleasure of drinking a glass of wine with you. Mr. Melbourn," added Mr. Jefferson, "was born a slave, and is of African descent, though he has considerable Saxon blood in his veins. He was enfranchised by a pious and benevolent lady, and is now a man of wealth. He has by his own efforts and industry cultivated and well-improved his mind--a mind which I religiously believe, your missionary observations, friend Leland, and Doctor Mitchell's dissections to the contrary notwithstanding, is of the first order of human intellects."
I was much embarrassed at this compliment from so great a man as Mr. Jefferson, and I presume appeared quite awkward. The whole company gazed on me with astonishment. The piercing eye of the Chief-Justice in particular, I perceived was fixed most intensely upon me.
Mr. Jefferson then related some part of my history, (for I had previously told him my story,) and he animadverted with great severity on the treatment I had received at Natchez, and upon the laws which legalized that treatment. While he was talking, I perceived Mr. Wirt's countenance several times redden with apparent indignation. It was now late, and I took my leave; but as I was retiring, Mr. Wirt followed me into the hall, and, taking me by the hand, expressed a desire to continue his acquaintance with me. "I am mortified and ashamed," said he, "that this glorious country sustains such laws as those under which you have suffered."
The next morning I proceeded on my journey northward.
City of Washington in 1815--Contrast between Maryland and Pennsylvania--City Hotel in New York--Willard, the Bar-keeper--Prejudice against Colored People in the Free States--The Author, after visiting New York and Albany, returns to Washington.
ON my way north I passed through the city of Washington, which, though called a city, was then a mere cluster of villages. Blocks of some eight or ten houses, with large spaces between each block, were scattered over a territory of three or four miles in extent, and a mile or two in breadth. The streets were muddy, and even the main street, Pennsylvania Avenue, was not paved. The president's house and the two wings of the capitol (the centre building had not then been constructed) had lately been blown up by the British; a circumstance
which added greatly to the appearance of desolation and ruin which the scene presented to the eye of the traveller.
From Washington I went to the beautiful and busy city of Baltimore, and from thence, for the sake of enjoying a better view of the country, I travelled by stage-coach through Lancaster to Philadelphia. When I arrived at the line of Pennsylvania, I needed no guide to inform me where that line was. Did my reader ever see a native forest, part of which had been scathed by what is called a fire in the woods, and the other part left untouched by the destructive element? If so, he may form some idea of the difference between the appearance of a country cultivated by slave, and one cultivated by free labor. The land of Penn was divided into small farms, well fenced, generally with stone wall. On each farm was to be seen a neat and comfortable farmhouse, and also a barn built of stone, fit for a dwelling-house. The eye was charmed with the view of orchards bending with various kinds of fruit, and fields richly loaded with grain. On the other hand, and immediately adjoining, were extensive plains, uncultivated, except with now and then a large cornfield. You might also perceive a few old mansion-houses at the distance of a mile or two from each other. These houses were some of them built of logs, which appeared to have been placed in the building in the time of Lord Baltimore. Scarcely a barn could be seen, and those which could be discovered, were in a most ruinous condition. You might also descry in the neighborhood of a mansion-house two or three negro-huts, with a few half-naked negroes, male and female, old and young, straggling in the fields, or sauntering about their huts. Scarcely any thing deserving the name of fences was to be seen, but now
and then might be observed, ditches in lieu of fences. Could the late Lord Baltimore, thought I, now visit his favorite colony, and witness these blighting effects of slavery, how would his benevolent heart sink within him!*
* This description seems more applicable to some parts of Eastern Virginia than to Maryland. It appears to me rather a fancy sketch of a slaveholding country, than a real and correct description of the present condition of the farming interest in Maryland.--Editor.
* This description seems more applicable to some parts of Eastern Virginia than to Maryland. It appears to me rather a fancy sketch of a slaveholding country, than a real and correct description of the present condition of the farming interest in Maryland.--Editor.
I spent about four weeks in the city of Philadelphia, and from thence went to New York; and there and at Albany, which is situated at the head of tide-water on the Hudson river--the finest navigable river of its length in the world--I remained the whole of the summer, and until late in the fall.
At New York I took up my residence at the City Hotel, at that time kept by Mr. Gibson, then and now one of the best, if not the best hotel in America. I say if not the best, because, although there are other public houses in the United States, more magnificently furnished, and whose tables are more sumptuously supplied, yet the ordinaries of the City Hotel can hardly be exceeded for richness and variety of food and excellent wines. But the particular reason of my preference of the City Hotel, is that, while in almost every other public boarding-house in America, the business and means of living of the lodger are a subject of inquiry, and rigid and careful scrutiny, all his movements are watched, and he is constantly the subject of remark by the curious and the idle,--at the City Hotel, a boarder may mingle in society or live by himself, he may talk or he may be silent for months together, he may drink wine or drink water--in short, he may be as
it were in the world or out of it, without being called to an account by any one for his conduct, or mode of living. I understand that Mr. Gibson has long since left the house, and that it is now kept by Mr. Jennings, a very worthy man, who was an inmate of it when I was there; and that Mr. Willard, the accommodating bar-keeper, who knows and remembers the name of every man who has ever stepped into that great thoroughfare, as well as all his uncles, and aunts, and cousins, is still there. Night and day he is standing in that bar. I seem now, at the distance of three thousand miles, to see his smiling face and hear him call the waiters, and give them orders, without for one moment suspending his conversation with a guest who is standing at the bar and making inquiries of him.
One thing struck me with surprise upon my arrival in the free states. I have remarked in the first part of my history, that my skin was white as that of most men, and whiter than that of the Spaniard, and that I had blue eyes; nevertheless, that my hair was curly, and even woolly--and this circumstance, together with some features of my face, clearly indicated that I was allied to the negro-race. I never concealed my consanguinity with that race; on the contrary, wherever I went I was careful to cause it to be known, for I did not wish to court the society of men under false colors. When I arrived in Philadelphia I soon found that my African blood was considered a sufficient objection to my being received as an equal among well-bred people; and without perfect equality I myself would not permit any social intercourse. This, instead of being disagreeable, was regarded by me as a favorable circumstance; for the melancholy occasioned by my recent domestic afflictions rendered me disinclined to mingle in society, and my isolated position enabled me to be a mere
spectator, "a looker-on in Venice," without being under any obligations to communicate with others. Hence, however, I arrived at the conclusion, that the prejudice against color is much greater in the free than in the slave-holding states. This probably arises from the fact, that the inhabitants of the free have less intercourse with the blacks than those of the slave states. This hypothesis is greatly strengthened by the fact, that in the Pilgrim land of New England, where the blacks are much less numerous than in Pennsylvania or New York, the prejudice founded upon color, as I shall hereafter show, is so great, as absolutely to amount to what may be denominated a color-phobia.
Of course I mingled in society very little either in Philadelphia or in New York. There were, nevertheless, so many southern gentlemen and foreigners at the City Hotel, that as I was known to be perfectly independent in my pecuniary concerns, I had social intercourse enough whenever I desired it, though I seldom visited, or received visits, from the citizens of New York. I did indeed call on Dr. Mitchell, who treated me with great kindness, and urged me to call upon him often; but I perceived that the Doctor introduced me to his friends rather as a philosophical curiosity, as he would show an Orang-outang, than as a gentleman who was entitled to associate on equal terms with the well-bred portion of society, and therefore I seldom visited him.
In the latter part of November I returned to the city of Washington, and took rooms at a hotel in Pennsylvania Avenue, near the president's house. The hotel was kept by a man, who, although a very clever landlord, was known by the almost unpronounceable name of Hieronymus.
Description of Mr. Madison, Henry Clay, William Lowndes, John C Calhoun, Daniel Webster, John Randolph, Richard M. Johnson--Remarks on the Candidate for the Presidency in 1816--James Monroe, William H. Crawford, Gov. Tompkins, Peter B. Porter, Erastus Root.
ONE reason for visiting Washington at that particular time was that Congress was about to assemble, and the meeting of Congress I believed would bring together most of the distinguished men of the nation, and my curiosity to see and hear them was very much excited.
It will be recollected that this Congress convened at a very interesting period. The treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States had been ratified but a few days before the preceding Congress had, by the constitution, become defunct. The Congress of whose proceedings I am about to speak, met on the first Monday of December, 1815, and of course all the arrangements for a peace establishment were to be made by that body. Means were to be provided for the payment of a debt of more than one hundred millions of dollars, which had been incurred during the late war, and commerce and the currency, which were sadly deranged, were to be regulated. Another matter which probably excited more interest, certainly more feeling, than either of those great questions, was the selection by the Republican party, which then held a decided majority in the nation, of a candidate for the presidency to succeed Mr.
Madison, whose last term was soon to expire. This selection was to be made by a majority of the Republican members of Congress in grand caucus assembled.
On the second day after my arrival in Washington, I met in the streets, to my great joy, my estimable friend, Mr. Pendleton. The very next day he took me to the President and introduced me to him. Mr. Pendleton in a few words informed Mr. Madison who I was, and what were my situation and circumstances in life. He received me courteously, and invited me to call often upon him, and I afterwards saw him frequently.
Mr. Madison was then a little more than sixty years old. He was small in stature, but the features and lines of his face indicated deep and profound thought, and there was a gravity in his countenance, and solemnity and dignity in his deportment, which inspired the spectator not only with respect, but with a kind of awe. He seldom smiled, and in ordinary conversation never laughed. His style in conversation, like that in his writings, was a perfect model of purity and elegance. Without appearing to have studied what he said, every word which he uttered, even on the most common topic, if reduced to writing, would have stood the test of the most rigid criticism. Of all men I ever knew he was uniformly the most self-possessed, and had the most perfect control over his own passions. He knew men well. As a politician he was cool and calculating. He never descended to any intrigue, but he was so well versed in the ways of men that he scarcely ever failed in defeating the contrivances and intrigues of others. He would wait with astonishing patience for the manager to entangle himself in his own meshes. The engineer would appear to be blown up by the petard which he himself
had with infinite pains constructed. It would be easy to prove the truth of these positions by biographical sketches of this distinguished man.
The Capitol having, as I have before remarked, been destroyed by the British under the direction of Admiral Cockburn, (an act of Gothic barbarity, disgraceful to the perpetrators and all who countenanced them in it,) Congress met in a row of buildings on Capitol Hill, owned by Mr. Carrol, and lately fitted up so as to afford temporary accommodation for both the Senate and House of Representatives. I attended in the galleries on the day the session commenced, and spent a part of nearly every day afterwards while I remained in Washington, which was until the next April, in witnessing the proceedings and hearing what passed both in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It is the province of general history to give an account of the measures adopted by this Congress. I shall therefore content myself with presenting my views of some of the most prominent members of that body.
HENRY CLAY of Kentucky was Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is a self-made man. He was, when a boy, a clerk of Chancellor Wythe of Virginia. Without, as I understand, much scholastic education, he acquired while there some smattering of the science of law, but before he was of age left the office of the Chancellor and wandered into the state of Kentucky, then an almost unbroken wilderness; and the inhabitants scattered among those wilds were mostly poor, uncultivated, and rude adventures. But the talents of Mr. Clay, young as he was, soon were felt and appreciated even among the half wild men of the Kentucky forests. He was a member of the convention which formed or revised the constitution
of that state; and to his eternal honor, one of his first public political acts was opposition to slavery.
In the earlier part of Mr. Clay's life, his sanguine temperament and ardent passions induced him to yield too much to sensual propensities and the exciting amusements furnished at the card-table; but as he advanced in life he corrected those errors, and finally abandoned both the one and the other.
When I first saw him he had just returned from England, where, in conjunction with Mr. John Quincy Adams and Mr. Bayard, he had been as ambassador, and had successfully negotiated the treaty of peace. It is not a little remarkable that a son of the western American forest should, by his easy, dignified, and gentlemanly deportment, have made himself more acceptable to the most polished and highly aristocratic circles in Europe, than even Mr. Adams, who, from his boyhood, had been an inmate in the most distinguished courts of the old world. Mr. Clay was, indeed, one of the most fascinating men I ever saw. Tall and elegant in his person, graceful in his manner, a countenance beaming with intelligence and benevolence, open and apparently frank in his conversation, he was the admiration and delight of every social circle in which he mingled; and such were his persuasive powers, that it seemed impossible for any individual whom he wished to bring into his measures to resist his importunities. In extemporaneous debate, he was the most eloquent man in Congress. Never did I hear a man who could address a popular assembly so powerfully as Henry Clay. It has been said he was declamatory and addressed more the prejudices and passions than the understanding. But no man was more astute in seizing, and prompt in exposing the weaker points of his adversary, nor
of presenting more clearly to the judgment his own strong points, and those which he believed must control the decision of the question. When he had, as he assumed, convinced your judgment, in urging his conclusions, then indeed he drew upon your prejudices and roused and enlisted your feelings and passions. With a clear, strong, and musical voice, a commanding and graceful person, his countenance flushed and his eye flashing fire, no audience composed of human beings could resist being borne away by the torrent of his eloquence.
Mr. Clay was a most zealous Republican, and would, occasionally, pour out his wrath in an unsparing manner upon the poor Federalists, whose policy then was to annihilate, as far as they could, party distinctions, and who therefore took every precaution against saying or doing any thing which might serve to call out the denunciations of their opponents.
Mr. Clay was ambitious--intensely ambitious, and probably had at that time fixed his eye on the presidency. Undoubtedly he sincerely loved his country, and was in the main governed by the impulse of patriotic emotions, but in devising means to accomplish a given end, he is said to have been sometimes not sufficiently scrupulous. He was at this time the favorite--the idol of the South. Subsequently, either from principle or policy, or both, he supported the measures of the northern people--a tariff and a bank, which lost him his old southern friends, and the loss of their friendship was followed by their most inveterate hostility.
WILLIAM LOWNDES and JOHN C. CALHOUN were the two great men from South Carolina. Of the former I may say, in brief, that he was a learned and an able statesman, disinterested and patriotic in all his conduct, and
mild, modest, and amiable in private life. He was one of the most benevolent men that ever lived, and yet was said to be the largest slaveholder in the Carolinas, except General Wade Hampton; and although this was an error, and in my judgment a very great one, in Mr. Lowndes, it was an error of the head, growing out of the circumstances which attended him from his birth, and not an error of the heart.
JOHN C. CALHOUN was younger than Mr. Lowndes. All the world now admit his great and distinguished talents. Though Mr. Calhoun possesses all the ardor of feeling peculiar to southern men of genius, in debate he appears more like a northern orator. He never attempts to address your feelings or your passions. He has nothing of that wordy grandiloquent eloquence which generally distinguishes southern orators. His argument is cool, clear, and logical, and you might listen to him an hour in a day for twenty days in succession, and he would not use a single word which was not absolutely necessary to convey his meaning. Calhoun was a Republican.
DANIEL WEBSTER, a member then from New Hampshire, was the leader of the Federal party in Congress. Cold, and rather repulsive in his manners, cautious and calculating in debate, he was always perfectly self-possessed. Unmoved by the attacks of his opponents, he pursued the chain of his argument, demonstrating, as he advanced, with all the deliberation of a mathematician solving a problem in Euclid.
Mr. Webster is not an eloquent man. He has not that acute sensibility nor the brilliancy of imagination, or, rather, the enthusiasm which, in my judgment, is indispensable for a popular orator; but he possesses strength and vigor of intellect equal, if not superior, to any other
man in America. In discussing the most abstruse question, and in pursuing a long and laborious process of reasoning, he does not seem to be conscious he is saying any thing extraordinary. He appears rather to be talking plain common sense, than discussing an intricate point in controversy; and when he arrives at his conclusions, he makes so clear a case that you are astonished, not so much at the skill of the orator, as that the same course of reasoning had not occurred to yourself; and this effect of his reasoning I take to be conclusive evidence of his high intellectual power. But Mr. Webster, when excited, which is rarely the case, is truly eloquent.
I will give one instance.
Mr. Webster and the Federalists as a party were opposed to a bill reported by Mr. Calhoun, as chairman of the Finance Committee, for chartering a bank of the United States. The bill as originally reported would have created a paper and not a specie-paying bank. This feature of the bill was against the individual opinion of Mr. Calhoun, but he reported it in that form in obedience to the direction of the majority of the committee, who were members from the south and west, and from Pennsylvania. Mr. Webster, when the bill was introduced, gave notice that he should probably vote against the bill in any shape it might be made to assume; but as in some form it might be passed into a law, he should endeavor to divest it of some of its imperfections, and make it as perfect as he could. With that view, he from time to time proposed amendments, all tending to compel the bank to become and to be a specie-paying bank. These amendments were generally concurred in by Mr. Calhoun, and by the aid of the votes of the Federal members were adopted; but the adoption of each of these amendments lost, from time to
time, friends to the bill from the southern, western, and some of the middle states. Mr. Webster, therefore, calculating as he did with perfect certainty that on the final vote the Federalists in a body would vote to reject the bill, felt morally certain he should succeed in defeating it, a project in which his whole soul was engaged; but, just before the final vote was to be taken, Mr. Hulbert, an influential Federalist from Massachusetts, and Mr. Grosvenor from New York, declared that they, with some fifteen other Federalists, should vote for the bill. This announcement broke upon Webster like a clap of thunder in the midst of a profound calm. He had lost as many Federalists as he had gained by all his labors from the ranks of the Republicans. He rose, prodigiously excited. His great soul heaved within him in terrible commotion. His countenance reminded me of the sudden gathering of a black and tempestuous cloud, ready to burst upon an alarmed and frightened multitude. He poured forth a torrent of powerful and eloquent invective on Mr. Hulbert, which, for fifteen or twenty minutes, suspended in breathless attention the house and the galleries. So profound was the silence, you might have heard a pin drop on the carpet. Hulbert and Grosvenor, though worthy and talented men, in one moment were annihilated. The speech never was, and indeed never could be reported.
JOHN RANDOLPH, whose history and character are too well known in England and America to render it necessary for me to say any thing about them, was also a member of this Congress, as he had been of every Congress since the year 1798. It is also well known that he commenced public life as a zealous Republican, but at the time of which I am writing he was, and for several years before had been, a dissatisfied man; and although he did not admit
himself to be a member of the federal party, he was opposed to the Republican administration, and much inclined to annoy Mr. Madison by all means in his power. It is difficult to describe this gentleman, either mentally or corporeally, and yet he was remarkable in both respects. He was tall and slim, and stood and walked exactly perpendicular. No marble pillar could be formed more so. He had a fine eye, but there was no more expression or variation in the color of his face than in a block of granite.
He was an excellent scholar, and one of the most extensively and best read men of the age, and what he read or heard he always remembered; and yet I once heard him say, in a speech he made in the House, (for in his speeches he talked of every thing,) that there were but three books extant which were worth preserving, and these were Gil Blas, Shakspeare, and the Bible. "The works of Shakspeare," he said, "contained the natural history of the heart of man and his passions. He knew," said Mr. R., in his own peculiar style of speaking, "the human heart as well as he who made it." Of all men in America he could and would pour forth the most biting and withering sarcasm upon the heads of his unfortunate opponents. I recollect, on one occasion, he put to the torture that great lawyer and orator, William Pinckney of Baltimore, in a manner that distressed him beyond measure. Though he spoke frequently, and sometimes at great length, (once he spoke the whole of three days in succession,) the principal debaters could not suppress their alarm when he rose. Like raw soldiers at the moment when the battle is to begin, each one trembled for fear he should be shot down. Yet Mr. Randolph was highly imaginative, and extremely nervous; so much so,
that many of his most intimate acquaintance (for friends, although he was benevolent and kind-hearted, owing to his frequent indulgence in bitter sarcasm, he had none) believed him partially insane. He himself was aware of this suspicion, as the following anecdote will show. Previous to relating it, however, I ought to mention that Mr. Randolph was a man of high and intense ambition. When the majority in Congress changed from federal to democratic, Mr. Randolph was for a while the acknowledged leader of the Republicans in the House, and was made Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means. But it was soon ascertained that his talents, which were formidable for attack, were not suited for defence, and that though he could pull down and demolish the fabrics of others, he could not erect a structure of his own; and he was removed from that station. It is said he sought a foreign embassy, but Mr. Jefferson, doubting whether he possessed the power of self-government, and the prudence so necessary for that station, declined to appoint him. On that occasion, he called, as was reported, on Mr. Jefferson, and inquired when Mr. Monroe, who was then abroad on a mission to one of the European courts, was to return. "My reason," said Mr. Randolph, "for making the inquiry is, I want him for our next President. I do not wish another philosopher for President." But I am losing sight of the story I was about to tell.
On one occasion Mr. Randolph had spoken unfavorably of some of the Virginia institutions. I had previously observed that no member could utter a word against Virginia without instantly drawing down upon himself the maledictions of the Virginia delegation. In Mr. Randolph, who was himself a Virginian, a sarcasm against that state was treason against the Ancient Dominion.
Forthwith, therefore, P. P. Barbour, Sheffy, and Jackson, young members from that state, came down with great wrath upon poor old Mr. Randolph. He rose and stretched his tall and gaunt form to its full height, his long gray locks seemed floating in your vision, and his external appearance indicated, what in truth he was, a great man in ruins. "In my younger days," said he, "I have in this House possessed influence and distinction. Those days have passed, never to return;--and sure it is, like old King Lear, I many times feel that I am abandoned by the whole world, and I can say with the old crazy king," (at the same time extending his long arm, and pointing his skeleton finger in succession at Barbour, Sheffy, and Jackson,) "the little dogs, Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart--see, they bark at me." Mr. Barbour, who afterwards was an Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, instantly rose, trembling with rage, and demanded an explanation. "I have no explanation to give," said Mr. Randolph, in his usual shrill, sharp voice.
Mr. Randolph had been a member of Congress so long that the House of Representatives had become his home; and he seemed to feel as self-possessed, and as much at home while there, as the schoolmaster in his school, or the merchant in his counting-room.
One particular instance of his self-possession and self-control I will mention.
While speaking, he was standing in the alley of the room, leaning on the back of a common chair. In consequence of some motion of his body the chair slid, and Mr. Randolph fell on his back. His whole length was stretched on the floor. He rose, and regained in a very short time his standing position, but during this whole process he did not suspend a word or even a syllable of
his argument. Had a blind man been listening to his speech, he could not have perceived that any thing unusual had occurred.
There were many other distinguished and highly gifted men, whom I have not named, who were members of this Congress. Such for instance were Mr. John Sergeant, and Mr. Hopkinson, of Philadelphia; Bartlett Yancy, of North Carolina; Forsyth Cuthbert, of Georgia; Governor Robertson, of Louisiana; Peter B. Porter and Erastus Root, of New York. The reader will perhaps be surprised that I do not mention RICHARD M. JOHNSON, afterwards Vice-President of the United States, in connection with the other eminent men who were members of this Congress. But I speak of men according to the impression made on my own mind at the time, and not according to the portion of public attention they afterwards (and sometimes fortuitously) engrossed. Colonel Johnson may have been a brave man and a patriot, but he certainly never deserved distinction as a legislator. He was quite incapable of making a speech. He used frequently to rise and say something, but it would in general require a more discerning mind than I possess to understand even what he intended to say, or the conclusions to which he desired to arrive. The National Intelligencer would, it is true, the next day after Colonel Johnson had occupied the floor, give us a very decent speech made by him, which, although I had listened very attentively, I protest, with the veracity of an historian, I did not hear. A good speaker never has justice done him by a reporter. A bad speaker appears better on paper than on the floor.
Colonel Johnson had much tact in snuffing the gale which wafted public opinion in any given direction. It was said, and perhaps truly, that he voted against all taxation,
and for all grants of money; that is, he would help get money out of the treasury, but would afford no aid for getting it in.
The great measures debated in this Congress were the bank and the tariff--of the former I have spoken. A tariff for protection of American manufactures had never before been proposed, or advocated, on that broad ground. The principal ground on which Mr. Calhoun and other enlightened friends of a tariff for protection placed their action was, that it was absolutely necessary in order to prevent the accumulation of a fearful balance of trade against us. While the corn-laws of England remained, what did the north and west produce which would be received in payment for European manufactures? Nothing--literally nothing, except a little potash. Unless, therefore, importation of foreign goods could be checked, the grain-growing states, in a very short time, would be drained of every dollar of their specie. These were the views of Mr. Calhoun, Gov. Robertson, and other southern members; and these were the views of Mr. Madison. The eastern members, and some of the members from the northern cities, opposed protective duties on the ground that the system would injure the commercial and shipping interest. The bill finally passed, and its success was greatly owing to the influence of Mr. Calhoun, and the address and zeal and eloquence of Mr. Clay. It is worthy of remark, that, with the exception of Mr. Clay and the people of Kentucky, the two parties on this question, as well as on that of the bank, have since completely reversed their position. Mr. Calhoun and the southern people now declare a protective tariff ruinous and unconstitutional, while Mr. Webster, and the New England and most of the northern politicians, insist that protection is not only
constitutional, but essential to their existence as a flourishing community. One thing is certain, the constitution has not been changed, and if protective duties were constitutional then, they are constitutional now. I have observed that southern statesmen, and, indeed, the northern also, with great facility persuade themselves that every thing is constitutional which will promote their views, and that every measure, to which they are opposed, is unconstitutional.
There were three prominent candidates for the presidency: Mr. Monroe of Virginia, Mr. Crawford of Georgia, and Gov. Tompkins of New York.
Mr. Monroe had for many years been a minister of the United States to some of the European courts. He was mild and moderate in his politics, but cautious and wary as a politician. He had no brilliancy of talent; he appeared dull, heavy, and inactive. He seemed rather to float than swim. Undoubtedly, however, he possessed much prudence and sagacity.
WILLIAM H. CRAWFORD was Secretary of War. He was a self-made man, of great energy of character and integrity of purpose. He was frank and unreserved in his communications with all men, and independent in forming and firm in maintaining his opinions.
DANIEL D. TOMPKINS was, at that time, governor of the state of New York, and had, by his activity, address, and popularity, rendered essential aid to the administration of Mr. Madison during the late war. He was not a great man, but from his good-nature and the natural pliancy of his temper, his disposition to oblige, and his fine social qualities, he had many personal friends in his own state, and, indeed, wherever he was known. Besides, he was a northern man, and from a non-slaveholding state--a section
of the union which had not had a president, who was one of its inhabitants, but for four years since the organization of the government. All the residue of the time the president had been taken from the state of Virginia. When this Congress assembled, the greater part of the members (I speak of the Democratic members) from the north were for Governor Tompkins. Those from the south were divided between Mr. Crawford and Mr. Monroe, and those from the middle and western states were divided between all three. Mr. Madison was for Mr. Monroe, and aided him by the executive patronage, so far as he could with propriety.
As I have before stated, Peter B. Porter and Erastus Root were two of the most influential men from the state of New York. Gen. Porter was a man of talents, profoundly sagacious, and Governor Tompkins relied much on his influence; but a friendship of long standing had existed between him and Mr. Clay, who was for Mr. Monroe. Probably, through the contrivance and influence of Mr. Clay, Mr. Madison appointed Gen. Porter one of the commissioners to settle the northern boundary line of the United States, and from that time forth Gen. Porter declined any apparent interference with the presidential question.
GENERAL ROOT was a native of Connecticut, and was educated there. He was a man of great talents, and in principle and in grain a democrat. And here let me remark, that the real democrat of the north--I do not mean the "dough-faced" northern office-seeker who calls himself a democrat--is very different from the democrat of the south. The southern democrat is for maintaining the rights and independence of the planter who owns lands and slaves. He thinks that particular class of men ought
to govern the mechanic, the laborer, and especially the black race, with absolute and unlimited control: that the assertion in the Declaration of Independence, "that all men are born free and equal," is "a mere figure of rhetoric:" that it means that all planters have an equal right to control the conduct of all other men according to their own will and pleasure, or their own caprice; and in short, he "thinks it freedom when himself is free." I do not mean, however, to include in this category such patriots and philosophers as Mr. Jefferson, and a few others of the revolutionary school--nor indeed such statesmen as Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun.
General Root zealously and pertinaciously supported Governor Tompkins for the presidency, until it was clearly ascertained that it was impossible he could be nominated. Indeed, it was early ascertained that Mr. Tompkins could not succeed; for the southern friends of Mr. Crawford very soon declared that they could not and would not, in any event, support Governor Tompkins. This declaration imposed on the friends of that gentleman the necessity of choosing between Mr. Crawford and Mr. Monroe; and the greater part of them avowed themselves for the former, some on account of personal preference, but more for the reason that that high office had been held by a citizen of Virginia for twenty-four out of twenty-eight years, and they thought it fit and proper that it should be bestowed upon a citizen of some other state. At the time when it was first settled that the competition was confined to two candidates, I have reason to know that a majority of the members were for Mr. Crawford. But the caucus was from time to time procrastinated until, I believe, the month of March--and in the mean time the executive patronage made prodigious havoc among the
Crawford party. The northern men were and are peculiarly susceptible of the influence of governmental patronage, and they have an instinctive predilection for those offices by which money is to be made.
At the caucus Mr. Monroe was nominated, by a majority of nine votes, over Mr. Crawford.
The Missouri question--General James Talmadge--The relation between Master and Slave considered--The question respecting a Division of the Union discussed--Personal courage of Negroes.
THE summer of 1817 and the winter of 1818, I spent in Raleigh and its vicinity. My anxiety for the health and comfort of my child drew me there; and I was afraid that long and continued absence would wean him from me, and prevent the growth of that tender affection which ought to be well-rooted in the breast of a child towards his parent, and grow with his growth. In the spring of 1818 I went to New York, and spent the greater part of the summer there; and in the course of that summer I formed a limited partnership with a commercial house in that city, in which I invested a small capital, which proved, as I have related in the first part of my memoirs, a very profitable investment.
The winter of 1820 I spent principally in Washington. When I went there I did not intend to stay long, but the agitation of the famous Missouri question, which became deeply interesting, induced me to remain there till that question was disposed of.
That the few remarks I intend to make on this subject may be the better understood, I shall briefly state the circumstances under which that question was presented, and the real question which was decided. This statement I make from my own recollection, not having a single written or printed document on that subject before me, nor within my control.*
The territory called Louisiana was discovered and settled by the French--subsequently ceded by them to Spain--afterwards reconveyed by Spain to France, and in the year 1803 was by the French ceded to the United States. In the treaty of cession, the American government stipulated that Louisiana should be admitted as a state or states into the Union, on an equal footing with the other territories and states which then belonged to it. Under this arrangement, the southeastern part of the territory, including the city of New Orleans, had been admitted as a state, and the northwestern part of it, which makes the now state of Missouri, had been created into a territory, its governor and other officers having been appointed by the President and Senate of the United States. This territory now applied to be admitted as a state, having more inhabitants than the number requisite to entitle her to admission, that number being 40,000. By the U. S. Constitution, Congress is bound to guaranty to every state a republican form of government; hence every territory requesting admission as a state, must first frame and adopt a constitution, by which it is in future to be governed, which it must present for the inspection of Congress at
the time it asks admission; and if Congress approve such constitution, if entitled in other respects, it is admitted, or otherwise it is, or ought to be, rejected. Thus, if a state were by its constitution to provide for an hereditary executive, or an hereditary nobility, it would of course be rejected.
Missouri had in the constitution which she offered provided for negro slavery, and indeed, according to my recollection, had inhibited her legislature forever after from abolishing it. By the compact of the old thirteen states, representation in the House of Representatives is apportioned according to the number of all free inhabitants, and three-fifths of all other persons, meaning by other persons slaves. Thus, suppose the state of South Carolina to contain 300,000 free inhabitants and 500,000 slaves, and the ratio of representation to be one member of Congress to 30,000 inhabitants; South Carolina would be entitled to ten members for her 300,000 free inhabitants, and also ten members for her 500,000 slaves. Now slaves are by law declared to be personal property, and this gives the slave states a property representation which is denied to the free states. There is in carrying out this provision most manifest injustice. In illustration of the injustice of this rule, I will suppose what I presume is the fact, assuming, however, fictitious numbers, that the state of Massachusetts contains 300,000 inhabitants, the value of whose personal property is twice as great as the property of the 300,000 Carolinians including their 500,000 slaves, and yet the 300,000 inhabitants of Massachusetts would have but ten members of Congress, while the 300,000 people in Carolina would have twenty members. Thus, with one-half the amount in value of property a citizen in
South Carolina possesses twice as much political power as a citizen of Massachusetts.*
Gen. James Talmadge, an eloquent and talented member from the state of New York, objected to the admission of Missouri as a state unless her constitution should be so modified as to prohibit slavery, and especially unless she was deprived of a representation in Congress in proportion to the number of her slaves. This produced a protracted and angry debate, which took a very wide range and elicited much local feeling and prejudice.
By Gen. Talmadge and his friends the horrors of slavery were depicted in glowing colors, the palpable injustice of slave representation was distinctly pointed out and strongly urged; and it was further insisted that the territory of Missouri was not a part of the United States when the constitution was formed; that the right of slave representation was then yielded by the free to the slaveholding states as matter of compromise; that the proposition to admit a foreign territory into the Union was the offer of a new compact; that it was therefore the right and the duty of the old thirteen states to make such terms for the admission of foreign territory as should be just and equitable; and that the constitution of Missouri was not in fact republican, inasmuch as it provided that a part of its inhabitants might make slaves of the other part.
On the other hand it was urged by the southern members that the United States were bound by treaty with France, to admit the ceded territory into the Union on
the same footing as the states then in existence--that each state, by its own inherent sovereign power, had a right to establish or abolish negro slavery--that the treaty also provided that the private property of the citizens of the ceded territory should be held sacred--that at the time of the cession the inhabitants of Missouri held slaves as property--that the refusal to admit the territory as a state, was a refusal to perform the stipulations of the treaty--that it would cause a sacrifice of the property of individuals--and that the faith of the nation pledged in the treaty would be violated, unless Missouri should be admitted with the constitution she had formed.
It soon became evident by several interlocutory votes which were taken, that there was a majority in favor of Gen. Talmadge's proposition. That majority was sustained and encouraged by resolutions of the legislatures of New York and several other of the largest states in the Union, which happened then to be in session, instructing their senators and representatives not to vote for the admission of Missouri into the Union, unless the restrictions proposed by Gen. Talmadge were adopted. In this state of the question, Mr. Clay, who was speaker, proposed what he called a compromise. This proposition was to admit Missouri into the Union without any alteration of her constitution, but that the admission should be coupled with the declaration that thereafter no state lying north of latitude 36° 30' should be admitted which should tolerate slavery, but that all states south of that line might hold slaves.
This singular proposition, which assumed the right of Congress to reject a state, which by its constitution authorized slavery, and which affected to establish moral and political rights by latitude and longitude, was finally
adopted by a bare majority. Partly by the address and personal influence of Mr. Clay, but probably more by the influence of executive patronage, then controlled by a slaveholding president, some fifteen members from the free states were induced to change their votes under pretence that they approved of Mr. Clay's compromise. These men were afterwards justly stigmatized by the sarcastic John Randolph as "dough-faces."
The result of the final vote on this question induced me to form the opinion, an opinion which subsequent observation and events have tended to confirm, that the poor slave has little to hope from the northern politicians.
The southern members threatened that they would secede from the Union if Missouri was not admitted, and many of the honest northern people were alarmed at this vain and impotent threat. I say this threat was vain and impotent, because the southern people cannot, if they would, separate from the Union, and sustain themselves as an independent nation, and they dare not, and therefore would not if they could. In my judgment, if the Union were divided, slavery could not exist twelve months in the southern states.
Why should not the truth be told? The relation between master and slave is necessarily a state of war. The slave is a prisoner to his master, not by natural or moral right, but by physical force alone. Hence slaveholders will not discuss, nor suffer to be discussed, their right to their slaves. Were the venerable and benevolent Clarkson to visit America, and attempt to convince the slaveholders that their true interest demanded the abolition of slavery, by proving that free labor was cheaper than slave labor, that gradual emancipation might safely
be effected, in the way it was effected in New York, or the villeins were emancipated in England, that their slaves might be turned into a tenantry, or hired laborers--instead of being answered, he would be lynched. If you appeal to their reason, their declared political principles, and their sense of justice, like the Scotch lords they lay their hands on their swords, instead of replying to your appeal. Is it not, therefore, war, never-ending war, by the master upon the slave? The one maintains, and the other yields to authority by physical force alone. Can the master complain if he is foiled in a contest which he himself has voluntarily chosen?
I say then, if the slave states were severed from the free, and if a well-organized army of 10,000 men were to land in a slaveholding state, protected by a competent naval force, with provisions, and arms, and munitions of war sufficient for an army of 60,000 men, the slaveholding states would be subdued in less than six months. How could it be otherwise? The slaves in some of those states outnumber the free whites. How many then of the whites could be spared from the defence of their own firesides? I know that the southern men are as brave as any people on earth. No man doubts their personal courage. But, alas, what could they do to repel an invading force, when each man has a deadly enemy in his own house?
I am aware that I shall be answered, that the southern states have outlived two wars with Great Britain; but it must be recollected that during those wars Great Britain herself held many slaves in her West India islands. It was therefore dangerous policy for her to encourage a servile war. Is that her condition now? Besides, during the Revolutionary war, it was well known that Lord Cornwallis,
with a comparatively small army, in a short space of time marched through the southern states, and supposed them entirely subdued, until his conquest was disturbed by General Greene of Rhode Island, with his troops raised in the northern and free states. Everybody knows that the last war was prosecuted by the British for the purpose of annoyance and not for conquest, and that they on no occasion tolerated a servile insurrection. But in both wars I presume I shall not be contradicted when I assert, though I make the assertion at random, that nine-tenths of the private soldiers who belonged to the American army were natives of the free states. Abstract the northern and western men from the ranks of the American army, and you will find an army of officers, but no private soldiers. I say nothing of a fact which I presume all men will admit, that money, which is the sinews of war, must be obtained almost entirely from the north.
Again--I may be told that the negro is mild and yielding in his nature, and that he is destitute of the personal courage necessary for a soldier. I know that by a law of Congress, the object of which is most apparent, no colored man is required or permitted to do militia duty, or in any other way to learn the art of war, and this provision extends as well to the free as the slave states; but I believe there were one or two black regiments enlisted in the northern states, and who served during the Revolutionary war, and neither their skill, bravery, nor fidelity was ever questioned.
During the last war it will be remembered that almost the only martial glory acquired by the Americans, excepting always the battle of New Orleans, was acquired by the American navy; and it will be conceded that a
great proportion of the fighting men of that navy were negroes.
The managers of the Park Theatre in New York, in testimony of the bravery of the lamented Captain Lawrence and his crew, manifested in the brilliant action with the British sloop-of-war Peacock, invited him and them to a play in honor of the victory achieved on that occasion. The crew marched together into the pit, and nearly one-half of them were negroes. I have been told this by a gentleman who was an eye-witness.
Is it not enough to degrade and oppress the negro? Must he also be branded with the charge of natural cowardice? During the dreadful contests which have occurred in the last half century in St. Domingo, I have never heard the negroes charged with the want of personal courage. The time may come, (which may a merciful God avert,) when the negro of the United States will afford a demonstration of his personal bravery, as, under sufferings the most extreme, he has already done of his patience and fortitude.
The Slave Market at Washington--The Law of Congress prohibiting the importation of Slaves from Africa, beneficial to the Negro growers in Maryland, Virginia, &c.--Ride from Washington to Baltimore--A Chivalric Southerner--A Philosophical Wanderer and a Quaker--A Discussion on the subject of the right of destroying wild animals--Anecdote of Bishop Hobart.
NOTHING else occurred during the time I remained at Washington, while this Congress was in session, which much interested me, except an exhibition, which I before had frequently witnessed, and which still disgraces a city which is the capital of a government that claims to be the only free government on earth. The states of Maryland and Virginia are the great slave-growing states, as New York and Vermont are the wool-growing states of the Union. The purchase of Louisiana and the new settlements in Alabama and Mississippi have greatly increased the demand for slaves.*
* The purchase of the Floridas, and the annexation of Texas, events which have occurred since our author wrote this, will greatly add to the demand for slaves.--Editor.
This demand is further augmented by the circumstance that on the sugar plantations in Louisiana the service and fare are so hard, and the climate so unhealthy for natives of the northern slave states, that the stock of negroes cannot be kept good by natural population. I am told that the sugar planter on the banks of the Mississippi requires an annual addition of slaves, over and above the increase by natural population, of ten
* The purchase of the Floridas, and the annexation of Texas, events which have occurred since our author wrote this, will greatly add to the demand for slaves.--Editor.
or fifteen per cent. For this reason the law of 1808, which prohibited the importation of slaves from Africa and other foreign countries, is highly favorable to the northern slave states. It operates as advantageously for the negro growers in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, &c., as an absolute prohibition of the importation of foreign wool, or manufactured cloths, would to the wool-growers and manufacturers of the eastern and middle states. This some of the Yankees did not see, and others more shrewd who saw it did not choose to seem to see it. But, in truth, the very men who exclaim so loudly against a tariff to protect the interest of the north, themselves enjoy not only a protection but a prohibition against foreign competition with their staple production. It is said that Virginia alone exports annually to the more southern states 42,000 slaves! These slaves, at the moderate price of $300 each, produce to Virginia an annual cash balance of $1,600,000!
The northern slave-producer and the southern slave-buyer meet at Washington. In that city these merchants, or traders in human flesh, congregate. To this great market the slaves are brought like cattle to Bull's Head, in New York, and there they are bought and sold. Hence, droves of them are frequently marched in platoons through the streets of Washington, chained to a bar of iron. To each bar ten or a dozen negroes--men and women grouped together--are fastened by iron bands around their wrists. In this plight many of the droves pass directly under the windows of the Capitol. If it were not for the painful sensations excited by this exhibition, in the mind of a spectator stationed at one of the windows in the gallery, it would to him be ludicrous to hear at the same moment the crack of the whip of the negro-driver, and the moan of the slave,
and at the same moment the speech of some orator in the Representative Hall, from Alabama or Georgia, lauding the United States as the only free nation on the globe, and appealing to God for the truth of his asseveration, that he was willing to shed his blood in defence of liberty and the equal rights of man.
Before the adjournment of Congress I concluded to go to the north, thinking that a residence in one of the northern cities would be more agreeable than in such a monotonous place as Washington. Accordingly, about the middle of March, I took my passage in a stage-coach for Baltimore. This, it must not be forgotten, was long before the railroad between Washington and Baltimore was constructed. At this season of the year the road to Baltimore was very bad, and it was considered a good drive to make this journey, of about thirty-six miles, in twelve hours. The stage left Washington at six o'clock in the morning. I had sat up late with some friends the preceding night, and to say truth, I had drunk rather freely. I therefore on entering the coach took little notice of my fellow-passengers, but quietly located myself in one corner of the front seat, drew the collar of my cloak over my face, to preserve it from the sharp morning air, and soon fell into a slumber, from which I was not awakened until after nine o'clock, when I was roused by a jog of my elbow, and a sonorous voice calling out, "I say, stranger, don't you want some breakfast, or do you live without eating?" I started up immediately, and following the person who addressed me, was soon in the breakfast-room of an hotel which was little more than eight miles from Washington. The breakfast was on the table in a moment, and I soon found that the only persons who seated themselves around it were my fellow-passengers; and I now for the
first time observed them attentively. They consisted of three gentlemen. The person who sat next me on the front seat in the coach, and who awakened me, was a man above the ordinary size, coarse built, red hair, with a florid complexion, a large mouth, a nose which was variegated with fine bright pimples, and the tip of it somewhat inflamed. The general appearance of his countenance was fierce and ferocious. He wore a blue straight-bodied coat, trimmed with brilliant metal buttons, cloth vest, open nearly to the waistband of his breeches, so as to exhibit fully the long ruffles of his shirt. Inside of his vest hung dangling a leathern sheath, in which appeared the handle of a knife, of the length of a common carving-knife;--over his pantaloons he wore what were then called sherry-vals, which were buttoned on the outside of each leg with shining metal buttons, set so near together that they almost touched each other, and his feet and legs were ornamented with thick cowhide boots. Over all these garments he wore a shaggy box-coat, with large ivory buttons. This coat had large side-pockets, in each of which appeared the breech of a horseman's pistol. His head was graced by a trooper's cap, ornamented with a long black fox-tail. Before he sat down to breakfast, and in fact the moment he entered the bar-room, he called for a gill of brandy, in which having infused a quantity of sugar, he dispatched it with wonderful facility. "Mint julep," he said, "answered very well for a morning draught in hot weather, but clear brandy was the best cordial for a gentleman in the winter."
Directly opposite the person I have described sat a small man, dressed in the uniform of a Quaker. His complexion was light, his face pale; he was slender, and rather emaciated; his countenance was open, mild, and
conciliatory; and his whole appearance, and the motion of every muscle of his body, indicated quiet resignation. He had fine large blue eyes, which beamed with benevolence, sensibility, and intelligence. While I was observing, with much interest, this gentleman, I perceived that our other travelling companion, and who sat opposite to me, was surveying me with close and critical attention. The name of this gentleman, with whom I afterwards became very intimate, was Tobias Thornton. His complexion was dark, forehead high, and rather protuberant, chin and lips well formed, the latter closely compressed when not talking, a large nose, fine bushy hair, and a small, but intensely keen, gray eye set deeply in his head. His height was about five feet and eleven inches, and his whole form was in perfect symmetry. I observed when he came into the house, he threw off a rich blue cloak. His under dress consisted of dark-colored broadcloth, neither so rich nor so gay as to inspire admiration, nor so unfashionable as to excite attention. And this, by the way, I take to be the best evidence of good taste in dress--that is to say, a gentleman or a lady, on all occasions, ought to be so attired that no person will notice, or be apt to remember, how they are dressed. Your associate ought to make such an impression on your mind that you will remember the man, and forget his dress. This cannot be the case if your friend dresses very gay, or if he is slovenly, or very unfashionably apparelled.
We dispatched our breakfast silently, but had made a scanty meal, when we heard the coachman's horn summoning us to the carriage. "Damn that horn," said the man with pistols and the long knife. "I'll be cursed if I leave before I have done eating." The rest of us, how ever, rose, and prepared to proceed on our journey. As
the other passenger did not make his appearance the driver returned to the dining-room, and gave notice that the coach would wait no longer. "Damn you, for an insolent puppy," said the gentleman; "do you think I'll be forced away from my breakfast?" The coachman, with a manner very cool, told him he did not wish to force him from the table, he might eat as long as he pleased, but the stage would proceed, and he might come on at his leisure. At this our companion started up in a great rage, drew his knife, and swore that he would put the driver to death instantly, if he uttered another word. It would seem, that when he rose from the table, the coachman recognised him, for with great good-nature he immediately replied--
"Poh, poh! why, don't you know me, Captain Puff? Have you forgot your old companion at the Wheeling races?"
"By heavens!" said the Captain, "are you Tom Blinker?"
"I reckon I am," said Tom.
"Give us your fist, then," said the other, "and go ahead."
Captain Puff, after this recognition on both sides, accoutred himself very expeditiously, and entered the coach in fine spirits.
"That driver," said the Captain, "is a rare chap. I saw him whip home, from a Methodist meeting, two of Judge Garland's negroes. He did it in fine style. The she negro was the finest formed wench I ever saw. She ought not to be kept as a field-slave. If I owned her I would take her to New Orleans, where she would sell for her weight in gold."
To this harangue no reply was made, but I heard the
Quaker sigh once or twice, and perceived the face of Mr. Thornton was considerably flushed.
"I fear," said the Quaker, addressing Mr. Thornton, "we shall have a rain-storm before night."
"It is very probable," said the other, and a long silence ensued.
The Captain, finding his remarks were not noticed, sat for some time in sullen silence.
After we had travelled several miles from the place where we breakfasted, we came to the farm of Mr. Calvert, a descendant of one of the most ancient and respectable families in Maryland. At that time he had reserved a large piece of land, which he had enclosed as a park for deer; and for aught I know, he or his descendants still preserve it. As we passed we saw several deer gayly racing in the park. This sight roused the Captain from his apparent revery.
"Oh, that I had my rifle! By heaven, if I had, cost what it would, I would spoil the faces of some of them gay fellows."
"And why would thee kill the unoffending deer?" said the Quaker; "they never injured thee or any one else, as I know of."
"Why would I kill them?" said Captain Puff--"a queer question that--why, for fun to be sure."
"And can it be," said the Quaker, "fun or sport for thee to torture with wounds and deprive an innocent being of life? Thee cannot give life, and why should thee take it, except in defence of thy own life, or to obtain sustenance to preserve it?"
"Ha! ha! ha!" roared out Captain Puff. "Pretty enough! So I have not a right, for my own amusement,
to kill a deer running in the woods, or a bird flying in the air--have I, brother Saint?"
"No," said the Quaker, "thee has no such right. It may be right to kill those animals whose flesh is necessary for our food, and whose lives we have preserved by feeding them at our own expense, which expense is the avails of our own labor; or it may be right to kill wild animals, in defence of our own lives, or even those which annoy us, or destroy the fruits of our labor; but it cannot be right to shoot an innocent deer, which in no way injures us or despoils our property, but which has supported himself in his native forest, entirely independent of the labor of man--or to shoot an eagle on the top of a tree or the summit of a cliff. To deprive such animals of that life which God has given them, for our amusement, is a sin against nature and nature's God. Indeed, the fact that a man can find amusement and pleasure in such a destruction of animal life is evidence, in my humble opinion, that his nature and taste have become barbarous--that instead of being a civilized Christian, he is in reality a savage."
The Quaker spoke this with some warmth. Captain Puff, who made several attempts to interrupt him, now said--
"Hark ye, Mr. Broadbrim, if you call me a savage I'll cut off your ears, d--n me."
The Quaker, who had now acquired his habitual calmness, made no reply; but Mr. Thornton said, in a mild, but very audible tone of voice, that "it was an evidence, and a pretty sure evidence, of cowardice, to abuse a female, or a man whose religious principles forbid him to resent an insult."
"Damn you," said Captain Puff to Mr. Thornton, "do
you take up the quarrel? My scoring knife will shave off your ears as quick as Groaning Jonathan's."
Mr. Thornton made no reply, but cast such a look upon the gallant Captain, as induced him to remain silent the rest of the way. It is singular how easy and how quick braggart blustering will quail and cower to true courage.
"My friend," said Mr. Thornton to the Quaker, "I entirely agree with you, that it is wrong to take the life of animals for amusement merely; and yet I cannot carry the doctrine so far as to consider it criminal to take the lives of animals which we have neither reared nor supported, but whose flesh is agreeable to our appetites, and may be made to contribute to our subsistence."
"Animal life," said the Quaker, "must be considered a blessing; and if the killing and eating of animals tends to multiply their numbers, which is adding to the quantum of animal life,--as it evidently does in the case of swine, and a multitude of other domestic animals,--it seems to me that our practice of nurturing and providing for them, with a view to the use of their flesh for food, is carrying out the benevolent designs of the Creator; but to kill a deer on the wild shores of Lake Superior, or a buffalo beyond the Rocky mountains, certainly cannot have the effect of multiplying the number of those animals, and therefore, in my judgment, is unjustifiable, except when absolutely necessary for the preservation of human life. In that case the killing is in self-defence, as much as when three men are starving at sea, and they cast lots which shall be slain to furnish a supply of food for the other two. I would apply the spirit of a transaction like this to the slaughter of animals which neither injure as nor our property, and which subsist independent of us."
"You may be right," said Mr. Thornton; "but before
the subject passes out of my mind, it is my duty to confess that there is a certain species of animals which I am in the habit of destroying for my amusement solely--notwithstanding I have admitted the correctness of the rule that we ought not to take the lives of animals for amusement: what I mean is, that I am so fond of fishing that I sometimes fish for amusement only, and suffer the trembling animals to perish on the shore without making any use of their flesh."
"I am almost ashamed to confess," said the Quaker, blushing, "that I do the like. But it has occured to me, that if some of the fish were not taken from our waters by the hook or the net, they might, if their ranks were not thus thinned, increase at such a rate, as that diseases in consequence of an excess of numbers would be generated among them. May not, then, the diminution which is caused by an indulgence in the agreeable amusement of fishing, actually produce or cause an increase of the quantity of life of this class of animals?"
This hypothesis was so much in character with sly Quaker subtlety, that I could not help smiling; and Mr. Thornton, rather sarcastically as I thought, thanked the Quaker for this new-invented salve for his conscience.
"But," continued Thornton, "civilized man--christianized man, will have a heavy account to answer for injustice done to another class of animals: I mean those domestic animals which we keep for our own use or pleasure. Such, for instance, is the sheep, the cow, the ox, and the horse. We depend, for a large portion of our necessary food and clothing, upon the cow and the sheep; and to the labor of the patient, uncomplaining ox, and the exertions of the strength and muscular power of the sagacious and intelligent horse, we are deeply and largely
indebted. I say nothing of the pleasure we enjoy by means of the docility and fleetness of this animal. And yet how miserably are they oftentimes supplied with food, and other necessary animal comforts; and with what savage cruelty are they frequently treated! Oh, how has my bosom burned with indignation when I have seen a drunken boor beat and bruise the horse (more intellectual than himself) which had carried his burdens and borne his own body from place to place--the quiet and gentle ox, which by his hard labor had turned the clod and prepared the earth to furnish him with bread--the uncomplaining sheep, whose fleece had protected him from the cold blasts of winter--and the mild and inoffensive cow, which had supplied his wife and children with their most healthful and delicious food! Rely upon it, my good friend, that of all animals man is the most savage. Indeed, he is not only a savage, but, as respects other animals, he is a ruthless tyrant."
"And so he is," interrupted the Quaker, "to some of his own species."
"There are, however," continued Mr. Thornton, "honorable exceptions among men in respect to the inhuman treatment of brute animals; and, in truth, when I commenced this course of remark, I had in my mind an anecdote of Bishop Hobart of New York, which I beg leave to relate. The diocese of that reverend and pious prelate extended over the whole of the great state of New York, and though his constitution was feeble and sickly, he generally visited each year every congregation under his pastoral care. In many parts of the state the country was new, and the roads were bad. He was, therefore, obliged to travel with his own horse. In performing these long journeys, he felt deeply the great obligation he owned to
the horse which bore him, and in his kind and naturally benevolent heart an affectionate attachment was generated towards those animals by whose labors he was enabled to perform his tedious and sometimes solitary journeys, something akin to the attachment we feel towards the members of our own family. The pure and sensitive mind of the good bishop could not endure the thought of permitting the horses which had been worn out in his service and had become superannuated by age, to be thrown upon the mercy of strangers, and he therefore purchased a farm on the Jersey shore for a home for those horses, and employed and paid a man to take care of them. When they became too old to eat hay and oats, he directed that they should be kept in warm and comfortable stables, and fed with meal till they should die of old age."
The Quaker's eyes glistened at this story, and he declared that the bishop had, in this instance, carried out the true spirit of Christianity. I could not help remarking that, without regard to any and all other good which the bishop had done, he ought, for the single act related by Mr. Thornton, to be now--where I believed he was--in Heaven.*
Before we arrived at Baltimore, Mr. Thornton and I agreed to stop at Barnum's hotel. The Quaker informed us that he resided in the city, and I had gradually acquired a feeling of so much interest in respect to him, that as we were getting out of the carriage I begged him to excuse me for inquiring his name. "My name," said he, "is BENJAMIN LUNDY; thee can hear of me, and generally
see me, at No. -- in -- street. Thee may enter at the door over which is written, 'THE GENIUS OF UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION.' " And Benjamin Lundy it was--the purest and most benevolent man that ever set foot on the American soil, and, perhaps, who ever trod upon the earth. I clasped his extended hand with ardor, and said, "I already know much of you, but wish to know more."
MR. THORNTON and I remained several days at Barnum's Hotel in Baltimore, during which time I became intimate with him; and the foundation of a friendship between us was laid, which I hope and trust will continue during my life. As I shall hereafter have occasion often to mention him, and intend presenting my readers with several of his letters, I think it proper in this place to give a brief account of his life and character.
TOBIAS THORNTON was the son of a poor man who occupied a small farm near the Green Mountains in the state of Vermont. His father's family was large, and the means for the support and education of the children within the control of the parent were, as I have stated, very much restricted. At the age of sixteen the health of Tobias became impaired, and his mother insisted that his constitution was too feeble to enable him to get his living by manual labor. He had early distinguished himself
in the district school in the neighborhood of his father, for his rapid progress in the rudiments taught there, and was regarded by the good people in the district, as a lad of uncommon talents. It was therefore determined that he should get the best education he could, and endeavor to live by his learning. But how was he to be educated? His father had not the means of paying his expenses for a single month at any of the high schools in that region. Tobias had merely learned to read and write--had become pretty well versed in plain arithmetic, and had acquired some knowledge of the English grammar. With these qualifications, at that early age he commenced teaching a common school. He succeeded so well in that employment, that before he was twenty years old, by the consent of his parents, he left his native town and wandered into one of the northern counties of the state of New York, to seek his fortune. There he resumed his pedagogical labors on a salary not exceeding one hundred dollars per annum, and continued in that business until he was admitted as a student or clerk in the office of a country attorney. By rigid economy and unyielding perseverance, he eventually succeeded in obtaining a license to practise in his profession.
I will not here detain the reader by a relation of the struggles, the difficulties, and the mortifications which this young man, who was without influential relations and stricken with poverty, was doomed to encounter. Thornton never refers to this portion of his life, without manifesting a very deep tone of feeling, which was undoubtedly excited by the recollection of what he felt and suffered at that time. His success in the practice of his profession was no more than ordinary; but he had not been long
in business, when, by a mere accident, he was employed by Mr. William McBride, a merchant in Albany, to secure a small debt for him in the county in which Thornton resided. This circumstance introduced him to an acquaintance with Mr. McBride--an acquaintance which produced the most auspicious results.
I must interrupt the story of Thornton long enough to say, that I was myself acquainted with Mr. McBride. He was an Irishman who came to this country about the year 1796, with no other resources than his own native powers of mind. He died a few years before I left America, and upon his death it was ascertained that he had accumulated an estate of nearly two millions of dollars. He was charged with being rigid and severe in the means he took to increase his stock of wealth; but I believe this charge was unfounded. So far from Mr. McBride being a hard and severe man, I personally know he was strictly just in all his dealings--that he did many acts of kindness, and sometimes manifested great liberality. It is true, he preferred helping those who he believed would help themselves, or in other words, he preferred giving aid to those to whom that aid would be of permanent use. He judged of men with great accuracy. Of all men I ever knew, Mr. McBride would ascertain the true character and look through the heart of a stranger the quickest. He loved his friend with all the ardor of an Irishman.*
Under the advisement of Mr. McBride, and aided by his credit, Thornton, during the war of 1812, as a contractor to furnish supplies to the American army, and
by some fortunate speculations, succeeded so well, that at the peace in 1815, he found himself worth in cash $100,000. This sum he immediately invested in treasury notes and government stock, which, as soon as the United States Bank was chartered, rose at the rate of twenty per cent.
From this brief sketch of the life of Thornton, it will be perceived he was entirely a self-made man. I will only add that he was extravagantly fond of books, and that from the time he was twelve years old, he voraciously devoured, but without system or arrangement, the writings of every author which fell in his way. One day it was history, the next natural philosophy--then poetry, fiction, politics, devotional, and skeptical works, &c., &c., engrossed his time and attention. Knowledge from books, if knowledge it may be called, was lumbered up in his mind, like that heterogeneous mass of matter which one may imagine a monomaniac might collect and store away in his garret--that is to say, blocks of wood, pieces of old iron, brass, and lead--pieces of silver, gold, and tinsel--the whole formed into one mass by a quantity of filth transported from the kitchen. The vigorous intellect and clear mental vision of Thornton in afterlife was employed, and successfully employed, in sorting, classifying, arranging, and purifying the confused mass of ideas which had been thus, as it were, casually thrown into his mind. I say, successfully, although it may be that even yet he has not entirely separated the German silver and the high-colored brass and tinsel, from the pure silver and virgin gold.
In religion, or rather in theology, I have some reason to believe Thornton was inclined to be skeptical. At any rate, I discovered, but not till I had been acquainted with
him for several years, that he doubted some parts of what is called revealed religion. I know, however, that he firmly believed in an eternal God, the great soul of the universe, in a superintending Providence, in human accountability, and the immortality of the soul. I have said somewhere that Thornton was a pious man, and I believe it, notwithstanding he indulged the unreasonable doubts I have mentioned. I know from his Diary, a part of which he requested me, for another purpose, to peruse, that he never surrendered himself to sleep without an humble expression of his gratitude to the great Giver of all good, and without imploring his protection, and begging to be resigned to the dispensations of his providence. He respected and venerated all religious sects, nor did he limit his respect and charity to Christians only. He extended his kind feelings to the Jew, the Mahommedan, and even to the Pagan. He has told me he never could reconcile it to his conscience to attempt to disturb the religious faith of man or woman, provided their religious notions did not lead to immorality. "For this reason," said he, "I seldom discuss theological questions, and never in presence of those whom I know to be attached to any particular system. If a man," he would say, "sincerely worships the great and eternal God of the universe, to me it is quite immaterial by what name he may call that tremendous power."
Mr. Thornton, immediately after the termination of the war with Great Britain, wisely declined business, and with his wife and child visited Europe. On account of the ill-health of his wife, he returned sooner than he intended, having merely travelled over England, Scotland, and Ireland, and penetrated the continent as far as Paris. Not long after his return his wife and child died, and
when I first became acquainted with him he was alone in the world, and remains so to this day.
He refuses to join any sect in religion or party in politics. He is a mere looker-on, a citizen of the world. He condemns such principles as in his judgment deserve condemnation, and he censures or applauds with freedom and independence such public men and measures as, in his opinion, challenge his approbation or merit his denunciation. In England there are many such men; in America there are few--I wish there were more.
Visit to Benjamin Lundy--Conversation between Mr. Lundy and Mr. Thornton on the subject of the Abolition of Slavery--Reasons urged by Thornton why moral suasion will never produce the liberation of Slaves--Merchants, Ship-owners, Mechanics, and Clergy of the Free States--Their feelings as respects the question of Slavery.
ON the third day after our arrival at Baltimore, Mr. Thornton and I agreed to make a call on Mr. Lundy. We were both of us subscribers for, and readers of his paper, which was called "The Genius of Universal Emancipation;" and we were anxious to cultivate a personal acquaintance with him. But before I again introduce my reader to Benjamin Lundy, I will remark briefly that he was, in my judgment, one of the most extraordinary men of the age. He had, I believe, been brought up to a mechanical trade; I think it was that of a saddle and harness-maker, a business which he had for a few years pursued in one of the villages in Ohio with great success, so far as related to his pecuniary affairs; but
while thus successfully engaged in the acquisition of wealth, his sensitive mind became powerfully impressed with the evils and injustice of slavery. So palpably unjust was it in his view for one man to claim to own another, and hold him as a chattel, that he thought if the naked question could be brought distinctly and clearly before the American people, the human mind could not resist truths which were to his mind so obvious; and that all men, if they could be brought to listen to his arguments, would think as he thought, and of course that the claimant of a property in human and immortal beings, would abandon his claim and let the oppressed go free. So ardent was his benevolence, and so great was his zeal for the liberty of the slave, that he discontinued a very profitable business in Ohio, sold his property there, and converted the avails into money, with which he founded and established the first liberty newspaper in America, at the city of Baltimore; and bravely concluding that the best plan to attack an enemy was at his citadel, he located himself in a slaveholding city. At a great personal sacrifice, he continued, in the face of the most formidable and bitter opposition, to publish his journal. Eventually, but after the time when I was first introduced to him, he was forced by persecution, and by the want of means, to give up the publication of his paper in Baltimore. But he did not give up the cause of the negro slave. The United States constitution prevented the slave from finding a resting-place in any of the free states of the Union. Benjamin Lundy sought to find some spot on the great continent of America, which might be rendered an asylum for the oppressed negro. With this view he went to Texas, then a part of the Mexican Republic, and from thence travelled on foot to the city of Mexico, in the hope
of negotiating with the Mexican government for a safe retreat for the descendants of Africa in some part of that Republic. In this, it seems, he was unsuccessful; and afterwards this real apostle of liberty sailed for St. Domingo, with a view of encouraging that unhappy people to stand firm in defence of their liberties, and in the hope that some portions of our black population might find protection there. I am but slightly acquainted with the particulars which relate to the life of Benjamin Lundy. His biography, it is true, has been written and published, but I have not seen it; still, however, I do know enough of him to reiterate the assertion, that no more disinterestedly benevolent man ever trod on American ground, than this same Benjamin Lundy.
We found Mr. Lundy in his office, sitting at a table covered over with open letters, newspapers, and pamphlets. He received us with a cordial welcome.
"Friend Melbourn," said he, "since we parted I have been led to believe from some old memorandums I have been looking over, that thee was born a slave in North Carolina, and was liberated and educated by that excellent woman, the widow Melbourn. Am I right in that conjecture?"
"You are quite right," said I, "my liberty, education, and property are the gifts of that benevolent lady."
"And a kind and merciful God," said Lundy.
"And what are your prospects of success in the great and good work in which you are engaged," I inquired.
"Alas," said Mr. Lundy, "I am sorry that I cannot encourage myself or my friends, that my ardent desire for universal emancipation will be speedily accomplished. The human mind is sordid and selfish. Man is fond of power. He delights in exercising authority over his fellow
man. Give every man the power of Nero, and we shall find many Neros, even among our most zealous republicans. The acquisition of Louisiana, and the late extension, by the consent of Congress, of the area of slavery over the vast territory of Missouri, will increase the demand for slaves, and encourage the raising of slaves in the old slave states. Hence Virginia and Maryland, which from considerations of political economy were beginning to devise plans of gradual emancipation, have entirely changed their views on that subject, and the people of those states now talk of the raising and exportation of slaves to the new southwestern states, as the staple commodity of the country. O Henry Clay, Henry Clay! a man whom I admire and love. Henry Clay has done an irreparable injury to the human race by his course on the Missouri question. But he himself will be punished for his own sin. The south will never forgive him for consenting to a compromise with the north, and the north never will unite as against the south in his support. But," continued Lundy with a sigh, "it is said the darkest time occurs immediately before the dawn of day, and I would fain hope that such in this instance will be the fact. At any rate, I shall continue to labor, be the event what it may, and I humbly hope that God in his own good time will hear the groans of the oppressed, and relieve them. I believe," continued Lundy, "I will believe," and a lambent flame flashed from his eye, "that the genius of universal emancipation will ere long pervade these United States."
"And by what means," said Thornton, "to be put in operation by human agents, do you propose to liberate the slaves in the slaveholding states?"
"By an appeal," answered Mr. Lundy, "to the conscience
of the slaveholder himself, and by an address to the judgment and understanding of the people of the slaveholding states. I can demonstrate to them, and indeed, I have demonstrated the gross injustice and wanton cruelty of slavery; that it is morally and politically wrong; that it is an outrage on human rights, treason against the most sacred principles of our national and state governments, and a flagrant sin against Almighty God. In short, I would use moral suasion alone. I would, and I do discourage resistance by the slaves. I protest, as by my religion I am bound to do, against all physical force. By these means Wilberforce, and Clarkson, and Pitt, and other philanthropists of Great Britain, have succeeded in suppressing the slave-trade, and by these means, and these arguments, this letter," taking one from his table, "which is from that great and good man, Clarkson, assures me that in a very short time, it is morally certain that the British parliament will be induced to pass a law to liberate the slaves in the West India islands."
"I grant you," said Mr. Thornton, "because I believe that a majority in the British parliament will shortly enact a law for emancipating the West India slaves; but I deny that the legislature of any of the slaveholding states of this Union, except, perhaps, the state of Delaware, will ever be induced by the means you suggest, to liberate their slaves."
"We shall do more than I have mentioned to aid the cause of emancipation," said Mr. Lundy; "we are now about organizing Anti-slavery Societies in all the free states, who will raise funds to support the apostles of liberty, who will go forth to preach liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to those who are unjustly bound in chains. The mighty power of the press
will be put in requisition, and instead of my solitary weekly sheet, thousands of periodicals will issue from it, arousing the attention of the people of the free states to the dreadful condition of their suffering colored brethren of the south. Rely upon it, my friend, the human mind cannot resist the truths which will be urged so universally, and with such power."
"I deeply regret," replied Thornton, "to declare to you, that in my judgment, the means you propose are wholly inadequate to accomplish the end you have in view, and my regret is greatly increased from my knowledge of the fact, that you are influenced by the most pure and benevolent motives, and because that, from my inmost soul, I abhor and detest slavery. Nothing could give me more cordial satisfaction than to see it abolished by peaceable means; that is, by moral suasion alone,--but this cannot be, and I will give you my reasons in detail, though I fear I shall talk so long that I shall trespass on your time, and exhaust your patience."
"Not at all," said the Quaker, "I will hear thee with pleasure, and I hope with profit."
"Well, then," said Mr. Thornton, "in forming an opinion how the majority of men will act on any given question, either in politics or morals, we must consider men as they are, and not as they ought to be. It is from a neglect of this axiom (as I deem it) that philanthropists like you, friend Lundy, frequently err. They are conscious of the purity of their own motives, and the rectitude of their own principles, and they naturally conclude that all other men, if furnished with the same lights, will think and act as they do. The result generally disappoints their expectations. What is the situation of the slaveholder in North Carolina, where my friend Melbourn was born? His parents, grand-parents,
great grand-parents, for more than two centuries, have held the negro as property. That property has come down to him from those for whom he has the highest reverence and respect. He has been accustomed to have his menial services performed by slaves quite as long, and with as little question of the right of demanding those services, as that his grains should be transported to the mill by his beasts of burden. The practice of his forefathers, tradition, and his own habits, to say nothing of his love of ease, have rendered his mind imperviable to any reason which can be urged in behalf of the negro. You might as well attempt to convince him that it was wrong to compel the ox or the horse to labor for his benefit or pleasure. But habit, tradition, and the love of ease in the master, are not the only obstacles to the manumission of the slave. A more formidable--nay, in my judgment, an insurmountable one remains to be mentioned, which is pecuniary interest. However we, as moralists, or politicians, may reason, the slave is considered by law as the property of his master; and, in some respects, much as I detest slavery, I am compelled to admit that, as relates to the master, he is so; for the slave comes to his master, either by descent as lands and goods descend to him by bequest of deceased friends, or by a bona fide purchase. Who among us can be reasoned into a belief that he ought to give up, or, as the property-holder will say, to sacrifice his property? From long habit, and the unanimous opinion of all around him, the slaveholder regards his slave as much his property as his horse, his bank stock, or his land.
"Suppose you were to endeavor to persuade the farmer of New England that he ought to relinquish to the public his claim to his farm; or argue with the speculator, who has purchased a section of wild, uncultivated land in Ohio,
or Indiana, that he has no natural, exclusive right to that land, (and, in truth, he has not,) and, therefore, he ought to abandon it to the first occupant; or suppose you were to exhort the bank stockholder of New York to give up his bank stock, for the reason that banking is what I believe it to be, an unjust monopoly, and an encroachment on the rights of community, will any man of common sense indulge the expectation that any process of reasoning would induce the farmer to surrender his farm, the speculator his title to a portion of the wilderness, or the banker his charter for the exclusive right of issuing bank notes? If you answer, as you must answer, in the negative, then I affirm that neither will the master give up his property, which, according to the law of the state in which he lives, he has invested in his slave."
"But," said I, "a majority of the voters, who create the legislature in the slaveholding states, are not slave-owners. Why, then, may not the arguments of friend Lundy be successfully addressed to them?"
"It may be true," said Thornton, "that the majority of the voters in the slave states do not hold slaves, but every state in this union is governed by the public opinion in that state. Now, public opinion is created, if I may so express myself, by the opinion of the most intelligent and influential men in the several neighborhoods which compose a given state. Take, for illustration, the common school districts in the state of New York. There are probably 10,000 of those districts in that state. I will venture to say that public opinion, in each of those districts, is created on an average by not more than three or four men. True, there will be parties in each district, in religion and in politics, but those parties generally originate from a difference of opinion between these three or four leading men, but
when you collect the aggregate of opinions in the ten thousand school districts in the state of New York, on any given question, you obtain the public opinion of the state of New York; and this opinion, when traced to its source, is merely the opinion of about one-seventh part only of its inhabitants.
"Now, the slaveholders in the state of North Carolina, for instance, though numerically in the minority, yet, in consequence of their wealth, when compared with the non-slaveholding citizens, and their superior intelligence, do govern, have governed, and will govern, public opinion in that state, and of course control the popular vote of the state. When, then, will North Carolina voluntarily manumit her slaves? Never, never! I have conceded that the British parliament will abolish slavery in the West Indies. But who compose the members of that body? Every one of them are inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland--a spot of earth so sacred to personal liberty, that the moment a slave steps his foot on that soil, his chains fall from him. But suppose the majority in parliament were planters from Jamaica, or were chosen by Jamaica slaveholders, when, then, would slavery be abolished in Jamaica? I again answer--never, never!"
"But," said Mr. Lundy, "if we can, as we hope we shall, excite the whole people of the free states to exert their influence and efforts, politically and morally, in behalf of the abolition of human slavery, will not their voice have a powerful effect upon the slaveholders of the south?"
"I fear," said Thornton, "that even your hope of exciting the people of the northern free states to use their influence, politically or otherwise, for the freedom of the slave, will prove delusive.
"The influence of the national patronage will be, as it has lately been in relation to the Missouri question, exerted in behalf of extending and perpetuating slavery. The people of the slave states, conscious as they are of their physical weakness, by reason of slavery, are, from a principle of self-defence, extremely anxious and on the alert to preserve and increase their political power. Hence, while the north and west are always divided, and by means of those divisions their vote in the selection of a national executive is nearly neutralized, the slave states, urged by their common interest and common danger, act in harmony and give a united vote. By this means, ever since the organization of the national government, with a single interregnum of four years, the president has been a slaveholder and an inhabitant of a slaveholding state. And such will continue, from the nature of the case, to be the result of our presidential elections. Of this I have not a shadow of doubt. I need not waste words with you, friend Lundy, in proving the immense influence of executive patronage, especially in the great states of New York and Pennsylvania, over the political and social actions of men. What mere politician at the north will volunteer an opinion in favor of the liberty of the slave, when he knows that the promulgation of that opinion will, so far as the national executive is concerned, disfranchise him?
"But there are obstacles, other than political, to the success of your scheme, even in the free states. The lowest, and yet a very numerous class of white people, as well at the north as the south, possess no sympathies in favor of the black population, whether they be free or whether they be slaves. Your object, my friend, and the object of every enlightened and benevolent man, is to elevate the moral character of the colored race. This object
does not accord with the feelings of the lowest class of whites. The degradation occasioned by slavery has induced a feeling of contempt for the whole colored race. The philosopher readily traces back this feeling to its true cause. He perceives that the degradation of the negro has been produced by an act of injustice done by ourselves, and therefore he will not tolerate a prejudice really founded upon it. The ignorant, the unreflecting and reckless, are incapable of this process of reasoning, and therefore think and act from impressions, created they know not why or wherefore. Besides, there is a propensity in every man, however degraded or low he may be in society, to be superior to some other man or men. If, then, the most ignorant and vulgar white man, according to the laws of the society in which he lives, can claim a superiority over another man, in consequence of a difference in the color of his skin, it is a superiority acquired, or rather which is cast upon him at so cheap a rate, that it is extremely natural that he should be, and indeed is, desirous of preserving a law of society so grateful to his own feelings. Hence I venture to predict, that in your future efforts, you will everywhere be compelled to hear the shouts of the mob against you.
"I also apprehend you will find the shipping and mercantile interests and influence against you. The merchant and the shipper's attention is called to the balance-sheet of profit and loss. What can the ship-owner and importing merchant gain from the poor slave, and what may he not lose from the hostility of the planter?
"The interest, likewise, of the northern manufacturer and mechanic is in favor of slavery. Nothing is more certain than that manufacturing establishments cannot flourish in a slave state. There are not, and never will
be, in such a state, a sufficient number of white laborers who will work at day wages, to supply any considerable number of factories with operatives, and the slave-owners dare not permit such a number of slaves to be grouped together as are necessary to work a factory of a reasonable size. Nor can the mechanic arts be prosecuted successfully in a country where manual labor is mainly performed by slaves. Hence the cabinet-ware, the shoes, and even the wearing apparel of the people of the south, are furnished by the cities of the north; and I am much mistaken if your anti-slavery associations will not have to encounter a fierce opposition from the cabinet-makers of Philadelphia, Boston, &c., as well as from the shoemakers of Lynn,*
* The mob which took place at Lynn, some years after this conversation, verifies the prediction of Mr. Thornton.--Editor.
and all other places of that description. For the honor of our northern colleges and other literary institutions, and even the Christian religion itself, I wish I could stop here, but I cannot. You well know that a large proportion of the southern young men receive their education at the northern universities. The expenditures of these young men in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, amount to a large sum of money annually; and the professors, managers, and victuallers of those institutions are deeply interested in preserving and continuing the attendance of these young gentlemen at their respective colleges, academies, and theological schools. Nineteen-twentieths of these southern students are the sons of slaveholders. When therefore it is considered that each of these literary establishments, as for instance Yale College, in Connecticut, or the Andover Theological Seminary, in Massachusetts, depends mainly
* The mob which took place at Lynn, some years after this conversation, verifies the prediction of Mr. Thornton.--Editor.
for its support on the patronage of slaveholders, is it to be presumed its faculty and its trustees will tolerate, not to say encourage, your war upon slavery? Sir, they will not.
"The various sects of Christians at the north are anxious to extend their respective creeds, and multiply their numbers in the southern states. The parent, in Connecticut, who educates his son for the ministry, is very well pleased if that son can be well and comfortably settled at the south. Will these rival sectarians make war on the domestic institutions of the southern states? Will the candidate for a settlement in the ministry in South Carolina, or the father and friends of that candidate in Connecticut, denounce slavery? Will he encourage the slaves in that state to read the Bible, contrary to its laws? I tell you, my friend, he will not. The so-called benevolent societies of the north, such, for instance, as the Bible and Foreign Missionary societies, annually receive large contributions from the rich southern planters, contributions which are filched from the earnings of the slave. Why, sir, but a few days ago, a pious widow lady of Alexandria, who was the owner of a negro man and his wife and five children, sold the man and two of the children to a planter in the state of Louisiana for five hundred dollars, which she received in two drafts on the Bank of America, one for three hundred and the other for two hundred dollars; and I have now in my pocket the draft for two hundred dollars, endorsed by the widow, to the order of the treasurer of the Bible Society in New York, as a donation to that institution, in testimony of the zeal of the donor for the good cause. Do you think this society, in any of their proceedings, will utter a word against slavery? Thus, unless I am grossly mistaken, the prejudices
of a very numerous class--the populace,--are invariably against the color of the African, and therefore they feel little sympathy for the slave; and the interest of the politician and office-seeker, the ship-owner, the importing merchant, the manufacturer and the mechanic, the literary institutions and the clergy of the northern free states, is against your enterprise, however just and however benevolent that enterprise may be.
"Do not, therefore, give your money to lecturers and missionaries in behalf of the slave; they will be laughed at and mobbed by the people of the north, and lynched and murdered by the people of the south.
"What, then, you will ask, is nothing to be done for the cause of liberty and human rights? Must the degradation and suffering of the African be perpetual? Will you extinguish in the bosom of the philanthropist the last glimmering of even hope itself? I answer, much may, and ought to be done. But slavery has existed for centuries. In the south it has grown up with the states. Its extirpation must be gradual. It cannot, except by carnage and slaughter, be suddenly abolished. Continue the publication of your paper, and by that, and other publications of a similar nature, keep the subject before the American people. Vote against every candidate for Congress who will not, when elected, oppose the extension of the area of slavery, and who will not vote for the abolition of the slave-trade between the different states. Refrain from supporting or countenancing those ministers of religion who either directly or indirectly justify and sustain the horrid position, that one man may rightfully own another. But, in my judgment, the best, and perhaps the only peaceable means of producing universal emancipation, is by elevating the standard of morals and the character of
the free colored people among us. To effect this, philanthropic and benevolent men in every free state in the Union should organize for the purpose of seeing that colored children shall be educated, and well educated; inducements should be held out to the young, instead of following servile employment, to learn and pursue the mechanic arts, agriculture, mercantile and professional business. A systematic course of respectful treatment should be put in practice towards those colored men and women who possess talents and merit irrespective of their color.
"For a most obvious reason, the slaveholders have caused Congress to enact a law--in which, as in all their measures for perpetuating slavery, the members from the free states have concurred--that no colored man shall be enrolled in the militia. Hence all practical knowledge of military evolutions and tactics is kept from that class of our citizens. Instead of raising funds to pay abolition lecturers, I would raise a fund for the establishment and endowment of an academy for the instruction of colored youth, similar in all respects to that at West Point. The pupils should be selected from the most promising lads of the colored race. There let them not only be taught military and natural science, but let them be taught self-respect, that they belong to the great family of man; and inspire them with a high, a noble, and exalted ambition. Young men thus educated will be the best lecturers and missionaries to effect the abolition of slavery, because in their own persons they will afford a demonstration of what the African race may be when equal competition is allowed them.
"Again--let an establishment be provided, west of the Rocky Mountains, and north of Mr. Clay's Compromise
Line, where those free blacks who choose to live separate from the whites may be settled; let the territory be sufficiently large for the creation of some three or four states, and let them there organize governments, either as states of this Union, or as an independent nation. If those highly intelligent, wealthy, and benevolent men, who feel and think with you on the subject of slavery,--and thank God there are many such,--would concentrate their pecuniary means, their influence, and their efforts, with a view to effect some of the objects I have suggested, then, indeed, I should be cheered with the hope that the injured, the abused, and suffering negro, would, at some future time, rise to an equal rank with his fellow men."
Thornton now begged pardon for having taken up so much of our time in presenting his views, but Benjamin Lundy assured him he had been very agreeably entertained.
"And I fear," said Benjamin, "there is too much truth in what thee has said. I cannot, however, give my assent to some of thy positions; and indeed, thee thyself must perceive that thy scheme of giving a military education to colored boys, squints too much at wars and fighting to receive the approbation of an humble follower of George Fox."
Thornton and I soon after took our leave of this good man.
The Author's Reflections on the opinions expressed by Thornton--Colonization Society--Conversation with a Negro Stage-driver.
I REFLECTED much on the views presented by Thornton, and it appeared to me then, as it does now--although the history of the opposition in the free states of America for several years now past, to the abolitionists, seems to prove his opinions in the main correct--that he was too illiberal, that the majority of men were not so entirely governed by narrow, selfish motives, as he represented; and I could not but believe that palpable and clear moral truths, and sound political axioms, would eventually prevail over those sordid and selfish propensities which he seemed to think would control the political and moral action of the American people.
I also think that Thornton does injustice to the American clergy, at least I am sure he does to the clergy of the state of New York. I personally know many of them, whom I believe to be honestly desirous for the universal emancipation of slaves, and the elevation of the character of the blacks in the free states. Their opinions on this subject they express freely, not only in their parochial visits, but in the pulpit.
It is worthy of remark that neither Thornton nor Lundy noticed the Colonization Society as a scheme which promised any benefit to the black man of America. Hence I inferred that they did not anticipate any good from that project, and I afterwards ascertained that that inference
was correct; in which opinion I entirely concur. That the society can ever effect the emancipation of the negro race in America is so obviously absurd, that no man who has any brains can fail of perceiving it. As a means of extending Christianity and the arts of civilization in Western Africa, it may be beneficial, but in my judgment it will retard, and was by many intended to retard, the liberation of the slave in the United States. It was calculated to drain the free states of their most intelligent, enterprising, and meritorious colored citizens, while it enabled the slaveholder to send to a returnless distance from his native country, the resolute and daring slave, whom it might be dangerous to retain on his plantation. It was an ignis fatuus, to delude tender consciences, and divert the action of unthinking but benevolent men and women from affording effectual relief to the slave by a mere show of it. The project is universally unpopular with the colored people of America. They regard transportation to Africa as a banishment from their native land to an unhealthy, savage country. This idea to many is more terrible than death itself.
In the year 1816, a few days after the Colonization Society was organized at Washington, I went in the stage from that city to Richmond, in Virginia. The weather was pleasant, and for the sake of viewing the country, I rode a part of the way on the box with the driver, who was a negro. By this the reader will perceive it was an accommodation, and not the mail stage, for no colored man in the United States is permitted to have charge of the mail. The driver, who, though a very sensible man, and though he was a slave, had heard of the Colonization Society lately organized at Washington, and of its objects. He soon began to make some inquiries of me about it.
In my turn I asked what he thought of the plan. He said he did not like it. I expressed my surprise at his answer, for at that time I really thought favorably of the project; and I suggested to my companion, that if all the colored people in this country were set free, such was the prejudice against color that they could never acquire an equal standing with the whites; that in all the free states the blacks were treated as an inferior race of beings; that they were excluded from all offices of honor and profit; and that the most worthy colored man was not permitted to come to the table, and eat with the meanest white man: that in Liberia it would be entirely different; that a competition for wealth, promotion, and honor, would be as open to the black man there as to the white man here.
He answered, that he had reason to believe Africa was a barren country--that he knew it was a savage country, with a most unhealthy climate, entirely unsuited to the constitution of Americans; that whoever went there would, for many years at any rate, be exposed night and day to be murdered by the savages; and that Liberia would be under the government of superstitious and selfish priests; that the negro loved the soil on which he was born as well as the white man; and that he could not endure the idea of banishment for life from his native country.
The Author's reflections on the Utility of Fiction, and the propriety of spending time in reading it. Writers of Fiction should describe men and their passions truly.
FROM Baltimore I accompanied Mr. Thornton to New York, in which city, and at Saratoga Springs, I spent the greater part of the ensuing summer.
At New York, during the spring and summer, little is talked of, or apparently thought of, but schemes of money-making; and at Saratoga, nothing is heard of but politics and the gayeties and amusements of fashionable life. The resolution which I had adopted, not to adventure any thing in speculations, prevented my taking much interest in what was passing in New York; and the report of my African blood debarred me from mingling with the fashionable circles at Saratoga. This I did not regret, as more leisure was afforded me for solitary rides in the country, and for reading; but I am almost ashamed to say, that the novels of Sir Walter Scott, then being issued from the press in rapid succession, revived my attachment to fiction, which I indulged with the ardor of a boy. Nothing but the magic power of Sir Walter Scott could administer even a temporary relief from the heart-rending grief which the continued thoughts of my lost and my beloved Maria produced. He, indeed, by his wizard wand, could transport me into the glens and among the rocks of the Highlands of Scotland, or the castles of the lowlands, and enlist my warmest sympathies in the fortunes
of his heroes and their lady loves. And I must be permitted to say even now, when every thing like romance in me must have long since been extinguished by age and experience, that the reading of fiction, either in the form of narrative, or as presented in dramatic works, is an excusable, if not a justifiable or praiseworthy employment of a portion of our time. Fiction, well and judiciously written, contains a true description and history of the human heart and human passions. I am aware that I am now treading on contested ground. I know that some of the wisest and best among us denounce the reading of novels and plays as a useless consumption of time, and as tending to produce a pernicious effect on the youthful mind. I admit that those works of fiction which present to the imagination specimens of humanity altogether more perfect or more depraved, I may say more diabolical, than can be found in real life--which create those high-wrought images of virtue and magnanimity, or those monsters of iniquity and crime, which are never found among men, but which exist only in the distempered imagination of the novelist--are evil and only evil in their tendency, because they teach the young mind to form a false estimate of men and things. Nor should too much time be occupied in reading works of fiction even of the most unexceptionable kind; for their natural tendency is to transfer the mind from the world in which we live, to an imaginary or ideal world. Hence I have observed that some persons, and especially females, who possess a high degree of nervous susceptibility, are ravished with the contemplation of the virtues, fortitude, and success of a favorite hero or heroine, which is the creature of fancy; or they are sighing and weeping over the sufferings of imaginary beings; but these same ladies have no eyes to
perceive the merits of those around them, and no tears for the distressed, or alms to bestow on the poor and afflicted in their own immediate vicinity. For sympathy for real misfortunes, they substitute a sickly sensibility--a morbid sympathy for shadows which exist only in their own disordered fancy. But fiction, as it should be written and read, presents a true picture of the action of mind under given circumstances. The description of plants, trees, animals, &c., is called natural history; and I would denominate well-written fiction the natural history of the human heart. Habits, and customs, and fashions, are different in different ages and in different nations; but the substantial qualities of the mind of man, and his passions, continue forever the same. They undergo no more change than the features of the face. How much have custom and dress changed since the days of Elizabeth of England! An English lady and gentleman arrayed in the fashionable apparel of the present day, if standing beside a gentleman and lady dressed in the court costume of Elizabeth, would hardly be supposed to belong to the same species of beings. The broad scarlet mantle, the gay and fluttering ribands, the glittering buckles, the golden spurs, the lofty crape cushion, the hooped petticoat, the extended drapery, &c., would illy accord with the present style of dress; but upon a more close inspection, the natural features of the representative of the court of Elizabeth, and of Queen Victoria, would be found to be the same: the same hand, foot, mouth, eyes, &c. Now as face answers to face in water, so does the heart of man to man. I remark, then, that those writers of fiction who (as all ought to do) describe man and woman as they are, and were,--(and many writers do so describe them,)--those that give us a true account of the action of
the mind of man, formed as he is of passions and propensities which are intended to be regulated by reason and judgment--not only afford the reader amusement, but instruction. Goldsmith, though he lived in the last century, and three thousand miles from Boston, when in the person of the wife of the good Vicar of Wakefield he describes a mother anxious to advance the fortunes of her daughters by procuring for them rich husbands, and using innocent tricks and art to accomplish that object, describes many affectionate mothers now living in the old city of the Puritans. Jenkinson, the horse-jockey in the Wakefield market, may yet be found on the Long Island race-ground; and George, the literary vagabond, who had such "an excellent knack at hoping," may be seen strolling in the streets of Philadelphia or Boston. There are, too, in the western world, many honest Farmer Flamboroughs; and, though not so rich, there are many equally amiable Arabella Wilmots.
Shakespeare, though he lived under the most absolute monarch that ever reigned in England, when he describes Jack Cade, paints to the life the demagogue in the United States. When he exhibits the great Cardinal Wolsey hastily walking, then suddenly stopping, biting his lips and muttering to himself, while with infinite ingenuity and expense he is constructing machinery which is to conduct him to the papal chair, and invest him with the purple, describes the ambitious plotting politician who may now be seen at St. James's, or at Washington. His Shylock, though an Italian Jew, is, with the exception of his religion and the habits of his age, the miser of Wall or Chesnut street in New York and Philadelphia. Sir Walter Scott has not only described the apparel and habits of the Scotch Highlander, but he has given a true and
vivid picture of the human heart, and human passions, which are not only to be found in the Highlands of Scotland, but which are now being daily exhibited in New York, in London, and Paris.
The unlettered and untaught Leather Stocking of Cooper, may at this moment be seen wandering along the shores of Lake Superior, or moving with stealthy steps on the banks of Columbia river.
My conclusion is, that it is proper to read fiction for the purpose of extending our knowledge of the qualities of the mind of man, of mental philosophy, and incidentally for our own amusement.
Remarks on the people of the Western States--Presidential Election in 1824--John Quincy Adams--General Jackson--Martin Van Buren--Extra Session of the New York Legislature in August, 1824--Election of Mr. Adams by the House of Representatives of the United States in February, 1825--Charge of a Bargain between Adams and Clay refuted--An occurrence at the Washington Theatre on the evening before the Election--The old Federal party.
FROM the summer of 1819 to the winter of 1824, I employed the greater part of my time in the summers in travelling in the eastern and western states, and in the winter at the south, chiefly in Charleston and in Raleigh. Although a majority of the leading politicians in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, are natives of the southern states, and although the emigrants from the south were generally more wealthy than those from the north and east, I did not fail to perceive that the numerical majority of the
inhabitants consisted of emigrants, and the descendants of emigrants, from the northern and eastern states; that Yankee industry and enterprise were gradually giving them an ascendency over the natives of the south, and that the customs and manners of the New England people were being established in the valley of the Ohio; and I venture to predict, that in less than half a century there will be scarcely a shade of difference in the fashions, habits, and modes of thinking which prevail in the valley of the Connecticut, and those of the people of the free states in the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi.
Early in January, 1824, I took up my residence at Washington. Here the great question agitated was, who should succeed Mr. Monroe, whose second presidential term would expire on the third of March, 1825. There were at this time five candidates for the succession. These were, William H. Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury; John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State; Henry Clay, Speaker of the House of Representatives; John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War; and General Andrew Jackson.
I have in a preceding chapter*
* See chapter III.
presented my views of the characters of Crawford, Clay, and Calhoun; and it is quite unnecessary to repeat what was said on that occasion. General Jackson is now so well known, that I should not be pardoned were I to occupy the time of the reader in describing him. That he was one of those extraordinary men to whom personal fear is utterly unknown; that he possessed unsurpassed energy of character and indomitable resolution; that he was ardent in his passions, equally ready to defend a friend and fight an enemy, is universally admitted. It requires
* See chapter III.
but a slight knowledge of popular feelings and prejudices to perceive that the traits of character which I have ascribed to General Jackson, and which, in truth, he possessed to a degree more eminent than any other man of his age, were calculated to render him a candidate with the PEOPLE of the United States truly formidable to his rivals. There was a brilliancy, a chivalry in his character, which dazzled the young, and which excited enthusiasm even in the old. The boys in the streets could not refrain from shouting when his name was mentioned. The last time I saw my little Edward, then about ten years old, I asked him in a playful manner which he would have for president, Mr. Adams or General Jackson? His reply was, "I suppose Mr. Adams is the best man for the nation," (an opinion he had often heard me express,) "but I had rather have General Jackson." This honest declaration of the child was, in my judgment, the real history of the action of the mass of the American mind, in relation to this distinguished man. Could such a current of feeling among a free people be checked? and ought not sagacious politicians to have perceived that it could not?
But the great statesmen and politicians, and the members of Congress who were friends to the other candidates, entertained no jealousy of the General. They could not believe that a man who, since he had arrived at mature age, had spent the greater part of his life in the western wilds; who was a stranger to that species of manoeuvring and management believed to be indispensable in a canvass for a president of the United States; who, comparatively speaking, was illiterate, and who was known to be in the habit of deciding and acting from the impulse of the moment, and sometimes from an impulse
created by a passion founded on personal friendship or resentment, could be chosen by the enlightened people of the United States the successor of a Washington, a John Adams, a Jefferson, or a Madison; and they therefore rather encouraged his party than opposed it, the friends of each of the other candidates hoping to be able ultimately to convert some part of the General's capital to their own use.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS was, and is, one of the most extraordinary men of the age. He came into public life before his father became president of the United States, having been appointed by General Washington to represent the American government at some of the minor courts in Europe. He has been one of the most laborious students that ever lived, and has probably read more than any other man in America. His manners, if not awkward, are stiff and embarrassed; and although he was educated in Paris, at a time when his father was the American minister at the French and other European courts, and has ever since been on terms of intimacy with the most accomplished courtiers in the world; if you were to meet him in company without being informed who he was, you would form an opinion that he had been bred a gentleman, but had for a long time been a recluse; and this opinion you would arrive at from the apparent embarrassment in his deportment and manner. This peculiarity in his exterior has undoubtedly been occasioned by his constant and severe application to study.
Of Mr. Adams, as a member and leader of a political party, and as a statesman, I will not attempt to speak. His public character is well known to the world. I may, however, be permitted so far to express my individual opinion as to quote, as applicable to him, a remark said to
have been made by John Jay, formerly Governor of the State of New York, and Chief-Justice of the United States, as expressive of his opinion of John Adams, the elder. "Mr. Adams," said Mr. Jay, "was a man of strong and ungovernable passions, occasionally imprudent in action, sometimes great, and always honest."
Ever since the presidency of Mr. Jefferson, the Republican candidate for president had been designated by a congressional caucus, and that practice had become a part of what may be called the common law of party; but a caucus for nominating a president was now opposed. The reasons alleged against a caucus were, that the members of Congress were chosen for legislators; that their business was to make laws, not presidents; that after a long association at the seat of government, there was danger of bargains for the benefit of individuals, and of unprincipled and corrupt combinations, if they were permitted to designate the candidate for president. These reasons, however sound and conclusive, were the ostensible and not the real reasons which induced opposition to a caucus.
Mr. Crawford had among the members of both houses many more friends than either of the other candidates; indeed, I believe he had nearly a majority of the whole. His friends claimed for him that he was, and ought to be considered, the only genuine Republican candidate; and if all the Republican members had consented to decide the question in a caucus, there can be little doubt that Mr. Crawford would eventually have been nominated. This state of things induced the friends of all the other candidates to oppose a caucus; and finally, they procured the signatures of a majority of the Republican members, and it was a bare majority, to a written declaration
announcing their disapprobation of a caucus. This measure effectually prevented any concentrated action by the members of Congress on the presidential question. An attempt was, it is true, made to get up a caucus, but it was attended only by the friends of Mr. Crawford. These gentlemen, when assembled, ascertained that their numbers did not amount to a majority of the Republican members. They nevertheless proceeded to pass resolutions, and to nominate Mr. Crawford; but being a minority of the party, their recommendations had no effect, or rather, in my judgment, this proceeding was injurious to Mr. Crawford; because, before this meeting, it was believed, at a distance from the seat of government, that a majority of the Republican members were Crawford men, and the result of this meeting demonstrated that he was in the minority. The contest was now transferred from Washington to the people of every neighborhood in the United States.
The summer of 1824 I spent in the city and in the state of New York. That great state was terribly convulsed by the excited action of political partisans. There, as well as at Washington, each of the five candidates had his supporters among the people; and there, as at Washington, a plurality of the democratic party were, as I believe, for Mr. Crawford.
It is not my purpose to attempt to exhibit even a glimpse of the intricate politics of the state of New York, or the various factions into which that state was divided.
MARTIN VAN BUREN, afterwards President of the United States, and then a senator from the state of New York, was the leader of the Crawford party in that state, and in fact in the United States. Oliver Cromwell, whom I consider, take him all in all, was the greatest man that ever
England produced, was not more the manufacturer of his own fortune than Martin Van Buren--perhaps not so much; for Cromwell started in his political career with the powerful aid of John Hampden. Mr. Van Buren, having commenced life with the lower order of society, from whence he gradually advanced to the highest, was acquainted with man in every rank in which fortune in this community can place him; and his keen, intellectual vision enabled him to look deeply into the human heart, whatever position in society the actor might occupy. I knew Mr. Van Buren well. He certainly was exceedingly amiable in social life. As a political manager he was shrewd, sagacious, and cautious. He was quick to avail himself of the errors of his adversaries, and generous towards a conquered enemy; but cold, calculating, and selfish, he steadily pursued all means which tended to his own advancement, and this without much regard to the personal interests of his friends. His talents, unquestionably, were of the highest order. He had, beyond a doubt, at this time fixed his eye on the presidency; and he well knew that the united support of the democratic party in the nation was the only means by which he could arrive at that exalted station. A large majority of the people of the slaveholding states claimed to be democrats. Mr. Van Buren also well knew that on the presidential question the southern states had always acted in unison, and he believed they would continue so to act. Mr. Calhoun, having declined to canvass, and declared himself to be in favor of General Jackson, Mr. Crawford had become the southern candidate; and I think it fair to presume, that the prospect of attaching the south to him on a future canvass, strengthened the zeal of Mr. Van Buren in behalf of Mr. Crawford; and undoubtedly his zeal was
the more ardent, because he must have been very certain that whatever the result of the approaching election might be, the northern democracy would ultimately follow in the train of the southern politicians.
I was at Albany during the extra session of the legislature in August, 1824--called, as alleged, for the purpose of enacting a law requiring that the presidential electors should be chosen by the people. The session lasted but a few days; but a higher degree of excitement I never saw in a legislative body. Gen. James Talmadge, who had distinguished himself so pre-eminently on the Missouri question, was a member of the assembly, and a leader of the opposition to the Crawford party. I had the pleasure of hearing him deliver one of his most eloquent speeches. The lobby and the galleries, in spite of the efforts of the presiding officer of the house, greeted him with the most rapturous and clamorous applause.
I was at Washington in December. No choice of president was made by the electoral colleges. Jackson had a large plurality of votes; Adams was next to him; Crawford had forty-one, and Clay thirty-seven votes. I hardly need mention that, by the United States constitution, the election in this case was required to be made from the three candidates who had received the greatest number of votes, by the members of the House of Representatives, voting by states--the majority of the members representing each state casting the vote of such state. Mr. Clay, therefore, was, by the constitution, excluded from entering the arena.
An interesting and exciting scene of electioneering was now opened. A large majority of the states were against Mr. Crawford. Independent of the political objections which existed against him, he had lately been the subject
of a paralytic shock, which had greatly injured his health, and which, it was feared, had impaired his mental faculties. His friends, therefore, despaired of electing him. The object of Van Buren and the Crawford party seemed to be, to prevent either Adams or Jackson from getting a majority of the states, and then to come in and make one or other of them President--and, of course, whichever of them should thus be elected, would know to whom he owed his success. This scheme was defeated by the address and influence of Mr. Clay, who took a very active part in favor of Mr. Adams. The five New England states, the states of New Jersey and New York, as between Adams and Jackson, were for the former, and Mr. Clay carried with him a sufficient number of the western states to elect Mr. Adams.
Mr. Clay and Mr. Adams had, for several years and down to the canvass in December, been supposed to be personally hostile to each other, and each had publicly denounced the other in the newspapers. All men, therefore, viewed with astonishment the course of Mr. Clay on this occasion. I need not trouble the reader with the reasons which, at this time, are quite apparent, why, Mr. Crawford being out of the question, Mr. Clay, in accordance with his previously declared political principles and future prospects, felt it his duty to support Mr. Adams. But the position of the two gentlemen having before been notoriously adverse, an outcry was raised and promulgated in every part of the United States, that a corrupt "bargain" had been made between Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay, and that the latter had sold himself "for a consideration" to the former. When, after the election, Mr. Adams appointed Mr. Clay Secretary of State, that appointment was declared, by the opponents of Mr. Adams, to have been made in consideration
of the support given by Mr. Clay to Mr. Adams, and in pursuance of the bargain.
I am inclined to believe that this charge against Mr. Clay and Mr. Adams, of a corrupt bargain, will not be sustained by impartial history; but, on the contrary, that it will be set down as originating in an inference from the relations which had shortly before existed between the two gentlemen, made by overheated, and, perhaps, dishonest partisans.
Mr. Clay had been a senator of the United States--he had also long been Speaker and a leader of the democratic party in the House of Representatives, and had successfully executed an important foreign mission. He was confessedly possessed of distinguished talents, and a great political tactician. While, therefore, these good and justifiable reasons existed for making the appointment, is it not uncharitable, is it not unjust, to assign for its causes corrupt motives?
My impressions, in respect to this transaction, are strengthened by a recollection of the following facts:
Soon after Mr. Adams was elected, he addressed a note to Mr. Clay, offering him the State Department. He hesitated, and doubted whether he ought to accept the place, and finally called together the members of Congress, who were friendly to him, and other intelligent friends, and submitted the question to them, declaring that he would be governed by their advice. My friend Thornton, who was a Clay-man, happened at that time to be in Washington, and was present at that caucus. He told me that Mr. Clay, on that occasion, stated to his friends his objections to the acceptance of the office of Secretary of State.
"He stated," said Thornton, "that, in his judgment, he could exercise more political influence in the nation, as
Speaker of the House, than as head of the State Department; and that his acceptance would, by his enemies, be represented as proof, and as the consummation of the alleged bargain with Mr. Adams.
"Col. M'Arthur, afterwards governor of Ohio, concurred with Mr. Clay, and thought his acceptance of the proffered office would be inexpedient; but nearly, if not quite all the others, and there were in that caucus distinguished men from every state in the Union, urged that those who were knavish enough to circulate the report of the bargain, or silly enough to believe it, would insist that the offer of the State Department was proof of the previous corrupt agreement, and that a refusal to accept would be represented as a cowardly attempt to evade the consequence of the bargain, and an admission of guilt;--that Mr. Adams, by reason of his retired habits, had little personal knowledge of the merits, characters, and influence of the active politicians in the various parts of the Union; whereas, Mr. Clay's knowledge on that subject was minute and universal; that his tact, address, and skill, and his knowledge of men, rendered it indispensable that he should compose a part of the administration; and finally, that his friends anxiously desired, and their interest eminently required, that he should be a leading member in it.
"I do assure you," continued Thornton, "that Mr. Clay yielded to the importunity of his friends, apparently against his own judgment, and with great reluctance."
It is my duty to add, that individuals are now living who were present at that caucus.
Many persons believed, or affected to believe, that Mr. Adams was a profound intriguer, that he was a deep plotter, &c., which in truth was the very reverse of his
character. He did not, in fact, yield enough to considerations of expediency to be a successful leader of any political party in the United States. But because, owing to a combination of fortuitous circumstances, and the address and influence of Mr. Clay, he obtained the election, superficial politicians considered him, and even Mr. Van Buren, for a time, affected to consider him one of the most accomplished pupils of Machiavel. In confirmation of this I must be allowed to relate the following anecdote.
The evening before the President was to be elected by the House of Representatives, and when it was morally certain that Mr. Adams would be the successful candidate, it so happened that General Jackson, Mr. Adams, Mr. Crawford, Mr. Clay, and many other distinguished statesmen, attended the theatre. The play acted was Macbeth. The part of Lady Macbeth was performed by Mrs. Barnes,--and she played it admirably. She pronounced with great emphasis the following words, addressed by Lady Macbeth to her husband, when urging him to murder the good king Duncan--
"What thou wouldst highly, thou wouldst holily,
Thou wouldst play fair, and yet wouldst falsely win."
At the close of this sentence the applause of the audience, as well those in the boxes as in the pit, was loud and long-continued. I was present at this exhibition, and was well satisfied that the principal cause of the clapping and cheering was an impression of some, and a desire to produce the impression by others, that these words were peculiarly applicable to Mr. Adams. Some persons, and Thornton among others, suspected that this particular play had been selected by the managers at the suggestion, secretly made, by the opponents of Mr. Adams.
The predilections of Mr. J. Q. Adams were supposed to be, and probably were, as it is natural they should have been, in favor of the old federal party, of which his father was a distinguished member and nominal leader. I say nominal, because Alexander Hamilton was the real leader of the Federalists. From reading the history of the federal party, and from a personal acquaintance with elderly gentlemen who were distinguished members of it, and especially from my recollection of Colonel Boyd, whom I consider as one of the "Last of the Romans," I am strongly impressed with the belief that the leaders of that party were patriotic men, governed by high and honorable motives. In one particular, however, in my judgment, they erred, and that error was fatal to their success as a party--they felt too little respect and reverence for the mass of the people. This want of respect begat in them a sentiment bordering on contempt for the opinion of the masses. I am free to say that I think such course in this country was, and is, not only impolitic, but radically wrong.
Would it be right for an office-holder under the Autocrat of Russia to endeavor to bring into contempt his opinions and decrees, and render odious his person and authority? If a subject should entertain feelings giving rise to such sentiments in respect to his sovereign, ought he not, as an honest man, to abjure his allegiance--or at any rate, should he not decline all official employment under a monarch in whose judgment he could not confide, and whose sagacity and understanding he despised? Would a courtier, who was seeking promotion from the Sultan of Turkey, deem it proper to indulge in open and public declarations derogatory to the talents, intelligence, and character of his royal master, whom he well knew
was the fountain of all honor, and the sovereign dispenser of all political favors? Now, in America, the PEOPLE are the sovereigns; they, and they only, exercise all the sovereign authority recognised in the nation; and from them all honors and official emoluments, directly or indirectly, proceed. Is it then wise, or indeed is it right, for the citizen who solicits their confidence, to abuse and traduce them? Ought the creature to claim to be purer and greater than the creator? According to the theory of the British constitution, the king is supposed to be the fountain of justice and honor, and therefore the maxim, that "the king can do no wrong," although admitted to be fictitious, and actually untrue, is, nevertheless, highly conservative in its tendency. So, in the United States, it should be held, at least in theory, that the majority of the people at the polls of the election can do no wrong. When the people speak through the ballot-boxes, the maxim "Vox populi vox Dei" should be held strictly applicable.
By this, I do not mean to say, that the citizen who differs in opinion from the majority should be restrained from publicly expressing that opinion. Far from it. It is one of the most inestimable rights, and the highest and most sacred duty of the citizen, when he thinks the majority of the people have misjudged, to endeavor to convince that majority, or a portion of it, that they have decided wrong; but this should be done, not by charging that the majority have acted corruptly, or that they are incapable of judiciously deciding the matter submitted to them; on the contrary, his arguments should be founded on the assumption that they are capable of deciding wisely, and that they have intended to act for the best interest of the country, but that they have been misadvised and misled by false information. As the errors of the king
of England are supposed not to be his, but those of his ministers; so the errors committed by a majority of the people at the elections, should be considered as having been committed by individuals who have misinformed and misled them.
For more than two thousand years the stern virtues of Coriolanus have been a theme for the applause of the historian; but with all due deference, I must be permitted to say, that I cannot perceive with what propriety he could challenge the support of the Roman people while he was in the daily practice of abusing and traducing that very people. I do not say that he deserved to have been thrown from the Tarpeian rock; but I do say, that the people were right in repudiating the man who sought every occasion to denounce them to the Roman senate, and to the world, as unworthy to be trusted, and as debased and contemptible.
John Randolph's motion to suppress the Slave-trade in the District of Columbia--Case of Gilbert Horton--Meeting in Westchester County--Character of the Hon. William Jay--Proceedings in Congress in consequence of the Imprisonment of Gilbert Horton.
I THINK it was during the short session of 1817, that John Randolph introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives, requiring the committee on the District of Columbia to inquire into the expediency of suppressing by law the slave-trade in that district. Mr. Randolph, during the whole of his long congressional career, was a
zealous advocate for the slaveholding states, and for slaveholding. It was not until the near approach of death that he, either from a regard to his posthumous fame, or impelled by a sense of his duty to God and man, or from both these causes, came to the conclusion to liberate his own slaves, of whom he held many, and he did, by his last will and testament, emancipate them. On offering the resolution to which I have alluded, Mr. Randolph, with unsurpassed eloquence, depicted the horrors of that dreadful traffic in human beings, carried on at the seat of government, and under the immediate eye of the representatives of a people claiming to be distinguished from the people of all other nations for their love of freedom. I had the satisfaction of hearing that speech, and never were my feelings more highly excited than on that occasion. Although I have not seen Mr. Randolph's speech in print, I have no doubt the report of it may be found by examining the files of the National Intelligencer. I ought, however, to add, that no reporter could do justice to that potent but eccentric orator.
The city of Washington, nevertheless, continues to be a common place of meeting of the negro speculators of the adjoining states, for the purpose of buying and selling slaves. But there is another practice which prevails there, and which is, if possible, a greater outrage upon humanity, and is, besides, a most palpable violation of constitutional law. When a colored man, either on account of business or for pleasure, visits the capital of his country, unless he has in his possession evidence that he is a free man, he is liable to be arrested and thrown into jail, where, after he remains for a certain period of time, he is sold as a slave by the sheriff, for the fees of arresting and keeping him in prison. By this law, every man, whose
skin is not white, is presumed to be guilty of being a slave. If it turns out that he is a slave, he is delivered to his master; and if he is a free man, he is sold as a slave to defray the expense of this confessedly unjust attack by the public upon his personal liberty. I doubt whether a law which sanctions so flagrant an outrage on human rights can be found in the code of any other civilized nation on earth. It reminds one of the ordeal by which witches were tried in ages long since past; if the accused floated on the water, she was to be hanged for witchcraft--if she sunk and drowned, she was adjudged to be innocent. The free states, to their eternal disgrace, have submitted to this treatment of their citizens generally without resistance, and with philosophical resignation. It however gives me pleasure to refer to one case, which occurred in the year 1826, when the arrest of a free colored man, in the city of Washington, was noticed by the executive and citizens of one of the states of the Union in a proper spirit, and in consequence of such interference, the intended victim was restored to his liberty. I shall state this case with some particularity, and in connection with it I will give a brief sketch of the action of Congress on the rights of free blacks and the emancipation of slaves in the federal city, over which the national legislature, by the American constitution, holds exclusive jurisdiction.
A free colored citizen, of the county of Westchester, in the state of New York, named Gilbert Horton, was employed as a sailor on board a coasting-vessel, which touched at a port in the District of Columbia. Horton went on shore, and while peaceably walking in one of the streets of the city of Washington, was seized and thrown into jail as a fugitive slave. After he had been in jail a
month, the following notice appeared in the National Intelligencer, under the date of August 1, 1826:
"Was committed to the jail of Washington County, District of Columbia, on the 2d of July last, as a runaway, a NEGRO MAN, by the name of GILBERT HORTON. He is five feet four inches high, stout made; has large full eyes, and a scar on his left arm near the elbow. Had on when committed, a tarpaulin hat, linen shirt, blue cloth jacket and trousers; says that he was born free, in the state of New York, near Peekskill. The owner or owners of the above described negro, if any, are requested to come and prove him and take him away, OR HE WILL BE SOLD for his jail fees and other expenses, as the law directs.
"RICHARD BURR, for
"TENCH RINGOLD, Marshal.
This advertisement happened to meet the eye of the HON. WILLIAM JAY, of Westchester county, a son of the celebrated Governor John Jay. Judge Jay is a man of wealth, of eminent literary attainments, imbued from his cradle with a sacred regard for human rights, of most ardent benevolence, and endowed with talents of the highest order, as is demonstrated by his writings, with which the public are now familiar. Disgusted with the low arts of demagogues, and the narrow selfishness and the insincerity and trickery of politicians--though always personally popular, and though to his own individual merits were added the fame and reputation conferred on him by his venerable father--he has refused to take any active part in the party contests in the nation, or his own state. I know him well, and I religiously believe that no mere personal considerations--nothing but an imperious sense
of public duty, would draw him from his retirement, or induce him to accept of the highest office within the gift of the people of his state or the nation. But he never fails to obey the calls of humanity, and in defence of human rights he is always active and energetic. Upon seeing this notice, Judge Jay took immediate measures to procure a meeting of the citizens of Westchester county. This meeting, of which Mr. Jay was secretary, after reciting the story of Horton, and that he was about to be sold as a slave to pay the jailer's fees, "as the LAW directed," among other things,
"Resolved, That the secretary is hereby desired to transmit to his excellency the governor, the evidence above referred to, and in the name of this meeting to request his excellency to demand from the proper authorities the instant liberation of said Horton, as a free citizen of the state of New York.
"Resolved, That by the fourth article of the constitution of the United States, the citizens of each state are entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states, and that it is the duty of the state of New York to protect its citizens in the enjoyment of this constitutional right, without regard to their complexions.
"Resolved, That the law under which Horton has been imprisoned, and by which a free citizen without evidence of crime, and without trial by jury, may be condemned to servitude for life, is repugnant to our republican institutions, and revolting to justice and humanity; and that the representatives from this state in Congress are hereby requested to use their endeavors to procure its repeal."
These resolutions were forwarded to Governor Clinton,
who addressed the following letter to Mr. Adams, then president of the United States.
Albany, 4th Sept., 1826.
"To the President of the United States.
"I have the honor to enclose copies of the proceedings of a respectable meeting in Westchester county, in this state, and an affidavit of John Owen, from which it appears that one Gilbert Horton, a free man of color, and a citizen of this state, is unlawfully imprisoned in the jail of the city of Washington, and is advertised to be sold by the marshal of the District of Columbia.
"From whatever authority a law authorizing such proceedings has emanated, whether from the municipality of Washington, the legislature of Maryland, or the Congress of the United States, it is at least void and unconstitutional in its application to a citizen, and could never have been intended to extend further than to fugitive slaves.
"As the District of Columbia is under the exclusive control of the national government, I conceive it my duty to apply to you for the liberation of Gilbert Horton as a free man and a citizen, and I feel persuaded that this request will be followed by immediate relief.
"I have the honor, &c.,
"DE WITT CLINTON."
In reply to the above, the governor was informed from the State Department, that before this letter was received, the marshal, having become satisfied that Horton was a free man, had liberated him. The truth probably was,
that the marshal had notice of the proceedings in the state of New York, and knowing, what was generally well known, that DE WITT CLINTON was not a man to be trifled with, and that he would at any hazard maintain and defend the rights of his own state, and every citizen of it, with firmness, and with a perseverance which could not be evaded or eluded, preferred the immediate liberation of Horton, by what might seem to be a voluntary act, to a compulsory discharge in pursuance of a requisition from the governor of a free state.
Judge Jay did not stop here. He drew a petition, which was signed generally by the people of Westchester county, in which was exhibited, in bold relief, the absurdity, injustice, and unconstitutionality of the law under which Horton had been imprisoned, and its immediate repeal was demanded. The same petition earnestly urged Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia.
To show how the grave matters which this petition brought to the view of Congress were shuffled off, evidently by the consent or connivance of the members from the free states, I will conclude this chapter by subjoining some brief notes, furnished me by a friend, of the action of the House of Representatives in relation to the subjects embraced in the petition. The accuracy and correctness of these notes will appear by a reference to the journals of Congress.
AARON WARD, member from Westchester, in a speech brought the case of Horton before the House, and introduced the following resolution, viz:--
"Resolved, That the committee on the District of Columbia be directed to inquire whether there be in force in said District, any law which authorizes the imprisonment of any free man of color, being a citizen of any of the United States, and his sale as an unclaimed slave for jail fees and other charges; and if so, to inquire into the expediency of repealing the same."
Resolution was discussed, and a motion to lay on the table rejected.
Discussion on Ward's resolution continued. Motion to lay on the table again rejected. Ayes 64, Noes 90. Mr. Ward, by request, struck from his resolution the words, "being a citizen of any of the states." The resolution, thus modified, passed by a large majority.
The committee reported in full, stating the law, and the apprehension and imprisonment of Horton under it, and recommended that the charges of imprisonment be in future paid by the corporation of Washington county, instead of being, as now directed by law, to be defrayed from the sale of the suspected, but unclaimed fugitive.
Soon after this report, the corporation of Georgetown presented a remonstrance against the passage of the bill introduced by the committee, changing the mode of defraying the charges of imprisoning suspected fugitives.
No bill on the subject was passed.
A petition signed by one thousand inhabitants of the District, praying for the abolition of slavery in it, was presented by Mr. Miner to the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives resolved, by a vote of 120 to 59, "that the committee for the District of Columbia be instructed to take into consideration the laws within the District in respect to slavery; that they inquire into the slave-trade as it exists in, and is carried on through the District, and that they report to the House such amendments to the existing laws as shall seem to them to be just.
"Resolved, That the committee be further instructed to inquire into the expediency of providing by law for the gradual abolition of slavery within the District, in such manner that the interests of no individual shall be injured thereby."
The committee presented a thorough pro-slavery report. Denied abuses in the slave-trade, and protested against the abolition of slavery in the District, but recommended a law prohibiting the importation of slaves into the District.
No action in consequence of the report.
Both houses of the Pennsylvania Legislature desired their representatives in Congress to endeavor to procure the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
The Assembly of New York passed a similar resolution.
Legislature of Vermont passed resolutions in favor of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
Legislature of Massachusetts passed a similar resolution. In the Senate unanimously, in the lower House, 378 to 16.
The House of Representatives, "Resolved, That Congress ought not to interfere in any way with slavery in the District of Columbia."
Thus ended the farce.
Letter from Thornton on the duty of man towards other animals.
I MAY as well in this place as in any other, insert a letter which I received from Thornton since my arrival in England. The letter, it will be perceived, treats of a subject entirely disconnected from that contained in the preceding chapter. Thornton is constitutionally one of the most benevolent men I ever knew. He ardently desires to see not only all men, but all animated nature happy, and his sensitive mind is deeply pained whenever and wherever he sees one animal voluntarily inflict misery on another. I have heard him say, that since he was twelve years old he has never, except in self-defence, caused the death of any living creature. The life of the most insignificant insect, which I have often heard him say at death "in corporeal sufferance feels a pang as great as when a giant dies," has uniformly been held sacred by him. Perhaps his extreme sympathy may have induced him to denounce, with too much severity, indulgence in what are called field-sports. At any rate, his views are in advance of the age. The time may come when his reasoning will be more justly appreciated, and more generally approved.
"NEW YORK, May 31, 1839.
DEAR MELBOURN :--
"I happened a day or two ago to be thinking of our ride from Washington with the redoubtable Captain Puff,
and of my conversation with the excellent Benjamin Lundy, on the subject of the duty of man towards other beings possessed of animal life, when a train of reflection occurred to me, which for want of something more interesting I now forward to you.
"Man has no right to deprive another animal of life, unless in his own defence; or unless the deprivation of another animal of life becomes necessary for the sustenance of his own life.
"1. There is a Supreme Being who produced and governs the universe, and to whom all other beings are accountable.
"2. The God of the universe is a being of perfect benevolence.
"3. A benevolent being must of necessity desire to cause and preserve the greatest possible quantum of pleasure or happiness in the universe.
"4. Therefore, God must necessarily desire man to pursue that course which is best calculated to produce in the universe the greatest possible quantum of happiness.
"5. It follows that the man who, so far as his actions depend on his own volition, pursues the course last indicated, conducts in a manner most pleasing to God. It is therefore the duty of man to pursue such course; but it would be right, and it would be man's duty to himself, to pursue that same course if there were no God.
"6. An individual human being has no right to attempt to procure his own happiness by preventing other beings
from enjoying happiness, because such conduct would be in violation of the moral law of God; but if there were no God, and no moral law, it would still be unwise for man to seek his own happiness at the expense of the happiness of other beings; because man is by nature a benevolent being, and any malevolent act--though, at the moment, the doing of it may seem to afford pleasure--will eventually cause pain. A single recollection of the lessons taught by experience, (the safest and best teacher,) will convince any one that the pain thus incurred greatly overbalances the pleasure. Besides, the attempt to deprive another of the enjoyment of happiness, will generally produce resistance and retaliation; and the evils and the pain which will result to the person making the attempt, will overbalance the gratification afforded by indulging his morbid propensity.
"7. In general, the enjoyment or happiness of a living creature is in the aggregate greater than the misery or pain he endures. It is better to be a living creature than a stone; for, though the living creature occasionally suffers pain, the pleasure he enjoys overbalances the pain: the balance, therefore, is in favor of existence. Hence, the multiplication of living creatures in the universe must increase the quantum of happiness in the universe; and the destruction and diminution of lives must diminish that quantum.
"From all these propositions, I infer the truth of the general proposition--
" 'That man has no right to deprive another animal of life, unless in his own defence; or unless the deprivation of another animal of life becomes necessary for the sustenance of his own life.'
"Does the admission of the truth of this proposition
lead to a prohibition of the use of the flesh of animals by man as a common article of food?
"I think not.
"1. The consumption of the flesh of other animals may be necessary for the preservation of the human species. A principal article of the food of man, both savage and civilized, in all ages, and in every part of the globe, has been and is the flesh of other animals. Who shall say--who can say, but that a portion of this sort of food is absolutely necessary for the preservation of the existence of the race of mankind?
"But, waiving this, there is another aspect in which the question may be viewed.
"2. The appetite of man to consume the flesh of other animals induces him by his own labor to provide for the sustenance and support of millions of animals which, so far as we can perceive, could not otherwise exist; and although he permits himself, after some of those animals have lived for a certain period, to deprive them of life, with a view of using their flesh for food, this practice tends to increase, and actually does increase, the number of living animals. Thus the destruction of life increases the quantum of life: a position which, though apparently self-contradicted, is nevertheless unquestionably true.
"The following corollary results from these positions:--that man may rightfully deprive other animals of life under the following circumstances and in the following cases:
"1. When man, by his labor and industry, has caused the existence and preserved the life of an animal whose flesh is agreeable and useful for food, he may rightfully, when his comfort or convenience requires it, deprive that animal of life.
"2. Man when perishing with hunger has a right, if necessary to preserve his own life, to kill and eat the flesh of another animal (the deer for instance) whose existence he has never caused, and to whose support he has never contributed. This right, it will be perceived, rests on the ground of the right of self-defence, or rather self-preservation.
"3. Man has a right to kill and destroy all other animals who make war upon him, or, upon his property, or more philosophically speaking, the avails of his own industry.
"4. In ALL OTHER CASES, the destruction of animal life by man is morally wrong; it is a crime against nature and against God.
"Man incurs to those domestic animals which render him service, or which supply him with the conveniences, comforts, and I may add necessaries of life, a high and sacredly binding moral obligation.
"One kind of obligation recognised by metaphysicians and moralists is, to make suitable returns for favors conferred. Now, has not the sheep, whose fleece protects me from the inclemency of the elements--the cow, whose milk nourishes my children and myself--the ox, which with patient and persevering labor breaks up my ground, and prepares it for the production of bread-stuffs--and the horse, which relieves me from fatigue, and safely and securely and pleasantly transports me from one place to another--conferred on me favors?
"And am I not under a high moral obligation to do something for these animals in return? True, I furnish them with food, and sometimes with a shelter; but these
conveniences the wild horse and the buffalo, as well as other animals of the sheep, cow, and horse kind, obtained before they were enslaved by man, without human aid. I give the horse food, not to pay him a debt, but to enable him to perform more labor for me. I therefore assume that the horse, which has faithfully served me, say for a dozen years, has a claim on me to support him comfortably in his decline of life, and after he shall have been rendered, by age and ill-health, incapable of earning any thing for me--a claim which, although he cannot enforce, in a court of law, he ought to enforce, and can enforce, in a court of honor and conscience.
"That it is the duty of man to treat all other animals kindly, and not inflict pain upon them unnecessarily, is so obvious, that the reader who can see enough to perceive any of the boundaries between right and wrong, would feel insulted were I to occupy one moment of his time in offering reasons in support of the existence of such duty.
"I then assume, as proved--
"1. That man palpably violates his duty when he permits himself to treat other animals unkindly, or inflicts on them unnecessary pain.
"2. That he becomes indebted to those domestic animals which render him service, or which yield to, and furnish him with, the luxuries, comforts, and necessaries of human life; and that he is under a high moral obligation to discharge such indebtedness by taking care of those animals in their old age, and by procuring ease and comfort for them, when suffering from the effects of disease or wounds.
"3. That it is a flagrant violation of right, and a sin against God, for man to deprive any animal of life, unless
it be those animals whose existence he may be said to have caused, and whose lives he has preserved by his own labor and industry, or unless their flesh becomes absolutely necessary for the preservation of his own life, or unless in defence of his own property or life.
"If these positions are true--if such be obviously and incontestably the bounden duty of man--how shamelessly, how outrageously is that duty violated, not only by the careless and reckless, but by the thoughtful, careful, and prudent; not only by the griping and miserly, but the benevolent and charitable; not only by the ignorant and vulgar, but by the learned and enlightened philosopher; not only by the impious and profane, but by the devout and pious! Why, one can scarcely walk into the streets, or range through the fields, without being compelled to witness the infliction of some unnecessary and wanton cruelty upon unoffending and uncomplaining animals by the tyrant man. If you go into the wild forest, which has been created without the aid of man--which has been enriched with vegetable life, and clothed with verdure, without his aid, and even without his knowledge--you will there find the savage man, merely for his amusement, prowling around, destroying and murdering inoffensive animals which subsist there without his aid, which never in any respect annoyed or disturbed him, and which have been placed there by the benevolent Creator of the universe.
"There are many species of brute animals which prey on each other, but the wars of these animals are waged not for amusement, but for self-defence, or self-preservation. Man alone, reasoning man, pious, religious man, God-like man, makes war on the animal creation, tortures and murders them for his own amusement and pleasure! The timid, the unoffending deer, which never did him the
least possible harm, for whose support he never in any manner contributed, he waylays and pursues with ferocious hounds and deadly weapons to the death, and then boasts of the tortures he has inflicted, and of his triumph.
"Man is the most savage animal that walks on the earth. Could all the other animals which inhabit the globe meet in convention and form an alliance, offensive and defensive, for the utter destruction and extirpation of the human species, it would, so far as respects the conduct of man towards other animals, be a 'holy alliance.'
"The reckless indifference with which most men abandon to starvation and death old animals of the horse kind, which have served them long and faithfully, is disgraceful to human nature itself. 'Poor old horse, let him die, let him die,' is the only elegy that is pronounced on the noble animal.
"I am now sixty years old, and have seen something of life, and I declare, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have seen nothing which has given me so much pain as the wanton destruction of the life of brute animals by man, and the tyranny and cruelty exercised by him over domestic animals. I cannot choose to die without saying one word in behalf of those uncomplaining, mute and suffering beings, who cannot plead for themselves. But what avails the feeble voice of one individual against the shout of thousands of millions of my fellow men!
"I would fain hope, however, that in some future age of the world the duty of man towards other terrestrial beings will be better understood and more faithfully regarded. Then will come the true millennium of the philosopher and the philosophical Christian.
Illibertality of the Abolitionists--Annexation of Texas--Opposition of southern Politicians to the acquisition of northern Territory--Mr. Madison--Strictures on the mode of carrying on the War for the conquest of Canada in 1812--Constitutional Principles of southern Politicians.
"NEW YORK, April 4, 1845.
"MY DEAR MELBOURN:--
"I have not heard from you for the last three months; what has become of you? Have you lost yourself among the battlements and monumental ruins of the old castle of the king-maker; or have you, at the age of fifty-five, become young and gay, and are you mingling with the fashionables in the modern Babylon, who change day into night, and night into day? But I will not allow either the reveries occasioned by the view of the monuments of ancient times, or your literary pursuits, or even the fascinations of gay society, to cause you to forget your old friend.
"I cannot advise you of any thing which will be new to you. You are in the habit of daily reading the New York and Washington newspapers, and they tell you of every thing which transpires, besides many things which never did happen.
"With respect to the subject in which I know you feel the deepest interest, the success of the Abolition party in
this country, and the prospect of the freedom of the slave, I am sorry to say that I can give you no information which will afford you any consolation.
"The illiberality and proscriptive policy of the Liberty party, which you and I have often lamented, so far from being ameliorated, is rather increased. I cannot say that I condemn them for withholding their votes at the last November election from Mr. Clay. Considering his course on the Missouri question, and his more recent avowal in the Senate of the United States, that slaves are by law property, and that whatever the law makes property is property, in connection with his second and third letter on the annexation of Texas, I cannot perceive how honest abolitionists could give him their votes--and with still less propriety could they vote for Mr. Polk; nevertheless, I think the selection of Mr. Birney, as a presidential candidate, was injudicious. Whatever may be his personal merits, he was quite unknown in the nation as a statesman. The abolitionists, I think, would have acted more wisely if they had declined voting for a president at the last election; or if, in their judgment, duty or policy required of them that they should have a candidate of their own, Governor Slade of Vermont, or Judge Jay or Gerrit Smith, of New York, would have commanded a much stronger vote than Mr. Birney. What is the most unpardonable in the Liberty party, because it is suicidal, is their denunciation of such men as John Quincy Adams, Giddings of Ohio, Slade of Vermont, &c.; these gentlemen are as good abolitionists as were Clarkson and Wilberforce. There are liberal-minded men among the abolitionists of New York and Ohio, but as a party they seem to be under the government, in some degree, of fanatical clergymen, and a few ambitious political aspirants, who
vainly hope to procure advancement by the course they take. One would sometimes be led to imaging that their policy was to adopt measures with the intent of preventing men of influence and talents from joining them. They rigidly enforce the rule of the old Mosaic law, which declares if you are guilty of a breach of one tittle of the law you are guilty of a breach of the whole law, and must be punished accordingly. This is not according to the doctrines of Jesus Christ. When some of his disciples informed him that they saw one casting out devils in his name, and they forbid him, because he refused to follow them, Christ rebuked them for it, saying, 'he that is not for us is against us;' whence it follows that he that is acting with us cannot be against us, and ought not to be so regarded. These immaculate Liberty party men will not allow Giddings and Slade to cast out devils, though they hold the same doctrines as respects human rights as the most rigid abolitionist. The Liberty party are anxious, sincerely anxious, that the slave should be liberated, but they will allow none but themselves to break his chain and open his prison door.
"You already know all about that abominable outrage upon the constitution of this country, upon the republic of Mexico, and upon the rights of man, which has been consummated by the annexation of Texas. You know that the Texas insurrection in 1837 was excited, conducted, and finally effected by citizens of the United States, under the connivance, if not secret aid, of this government; you know that the real cause of that insurrection was, that Mexico refused to tolerate human slavery; you also know that after the war with Mexico had continued for some time, Mexico, under the advisement of Great Britain and France, finally consented to
acknowledge the independence of Texas, provided she would abolish slavery; that Texas was about to accede to this proposition; that for the express purpose of PREVENTING THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY IN TEXAS, as avowed by the organs of the American government (Upshur and Calhoun, Secretaries of State*
* The official diplomatic correspondence of these gentlemen justify this assertion.--Editor.
) in the face of a civilized and Christian world, and for the purpose of extending the area of slavery, and perpetuating it in the slave states of the Union, we robbed a sister republic of her territory--territory which, by all the solemnities of treaty, we had repeatedly acknowledged to be hers. Thus, by our own acknowledgment we are of record, robbers.
* The official diplomatic correspondence of these gentlemen justify this assertion.--Editor.
"The south, at the last session, before they introduced the resolutions for the annexation of Texas, caused a resolution to be proposed in favor of taking possession of the territory of Oregon. This resolution was made the pioneer of that for the annexation of Texas. This manoeuvre was resorted to for the purpose of gulling the masses of the north and west. I say the masses, because any member of Congress who had brains enough to find his way to the Capitol, must have known it was a gross deception. In due time the Texas resolution shot ahead of its pioneer, and the Oregon resolution was left to slumber among the rubbish with which the congressional table was loaded.
"Who believes that there will ever be a state west of the Rocky Mountains which will be one of the United States? I am free to say, I do not. Time will show whether I am right.
"In the first place, this, or any other southern administration,
--and there is little probability we shall ever have any other,--will give up every foot of land in Oregon, notwithstanding the town-meeting-speech of Mr. Polk at his inauguration, rather than engage in a war with Great Britain. By the way, the slaveholding and cotton-planting interest of the south, and the shipping interest of the east, will forever hereafter prevent a war with Great Britain, unless the conduct of the latter power shall be so outrageous that it will become dangerous to resist the clamor of the grain-growing states. But if Great Britain, in consequence of liberal concessions of commercial privileges by the American government, shall consent to give us a part of Oregon,*
* This has actually taken place, as Mr. Thornton, in 1845, conjectured.--Editor.
the south will encourage the formation of an independent government there, and they will succeed in effecting that project. I have no time to argue the question whether this will not be the probable result. I leave that for you to do.
* This has actually taken place, as Mr. Thornton, in 1845, conjectured.--Editor.
"The south never will consent to the acquisition of one foot of territory north of Mason and Dixon's line. And I verily believe, that if Great Britain were at this moment to offer, with the consent of the inhabitants of the Canadas, to annex that territory, it would be resisted by the south, at the hazard of a division of the Union.
"All reflecting men at this day will, I presume, admit that during the last war Mr. Madison did not desire the conquest of Canada. One reason, no doubt, which operated on his mind, was the difficulties it might interpose in a negotiation for peace. If we should gain possession, by conquest, of the territory, he apprehended that the
northern states would not consent to surrender it, and he justly feared that Great Britain would never consent to yield up any portion of her dominions which had been wrested from her by force. If Mr. Madison had not, at the commencement of the war, determined against the conquest of Canada, how is it possible to reconcile his conduct in the instance I am about to state, to the high reputation he always, and I believe justly, sustained for forecast and sagacity?
"The war was declared at Washington, in June, 1812. At that time the British, strictly speaking, had no naval force on Lake Champlain. Before the news of the war could reach London, Rouse's Point might have been fortified, the Isle Le Noi might have been seized, and by an expenditure of probably less than $100,000, a naval force might have been constructed and put afloat on Lake Champlain sufficient to command it; and possession might have been taken of St. Johns and all other landing places on the Canada side of the lake. This would have enabled us to transport the whole disposable military force of the nation, together with provisions, arms, and munitions of war, from New York, Boston, &c., by steamboats, into the heart of Canada, with only sixty miles land-carriage, on an excellent road, between Troy and Whitehall. The control of Lake Champlain, and the possession of St. Johns, must, with the means then in our power, have enabled us to have taken possession of Montreal before the British could have sent aid from England.*
* The state of Vermont could have furnished a force sufficient to have marched to Montreal and taken that town.--Editor.
Upper Canada must then, of course, have fallen into our hands, with very little effort or expense on our part. Instead of
* The state of Vermont could have furnished a force sufficient to have marched to Montreal and taken that town.--Editor.
this, the government expended millions and millions of money, as the records of the war and treasury departments will show, in transporting troops and munitions of war by land over bad roads and no roads at all (for it will be recollected our canals were not then made) to Sackett's Harbor, to Buffalo, to Detroit, and other points bordering upon the sparsely populated and unsettled parts of Upper Canada. Entering it as we did at these extreme points, and with small detachments, no rational man could entertain a hope of making a conquest of the country.
"The palpable violation of the American Constitution by the annexation of Texas, is deeply to be deplored by all those who regard and desire to preserve that instrument. Although you are in a foreign country, you must have thought on the subject, and probably more than I have; but the process of reasoning is so simple, and so obvious, that I take leave to put it on paper.
"By the United States constitution the powers not expressly granted, are in terms withheld. There is no grant of power to the general government to acquire foreign territory and make it a part of the United States. Texas was not only foreign territory, but was actually an independent foreign government, by our own recorded acknowledgment; and yet, by a simple resolution, this foreign government was made a part of the United States. It is easy to see, that on the same principles France, or the Empire of Germany, may by a resolution of Congress be annexed to the United States, and as both France and Germany each have a greater population than we, Louis Philippe or the Emperor of Germany might be elected President of the United States. And this flagrant violation of the constitution was committed, and this outrage was perpetrated, by men who so sacredly regard the constitution
that they cannot vote for a bank charter, notwithstanding the constitution imposes on Congress the duty of regulating the currency of the nation, and notwithstanding the power to grant such charter has been adjudged to be in Congress by three preceding national legislatures, by two or more Presidents, and by the Supreme Court of the United States, who by that very constitution are made the only expounders of constitutional law.
"In 1824, Van Buren, Forsyth, Buchanan, and other distinguished politicians, who then acted with the southern party, supported with great ardor, Crawford for president, and Gallatin for vice-president, who were the open, avowed, and zealous friends of the United States Bank, as a constitutional and necessary institution, and in 1832, Mr. Van Buren, Forsyth, &c., declared 'uncompromising hostility' to any National Bank, principally on the ground that the creation of moneyed corporations was unconstitutional. But the constitution in 1832, was the same as that of 1824. So, also, the southern politicians in, I believe, 1808, supported and urged the passage of a law, laying an embargo on all exportations, to continue an indefinite and unlimited time. This act in terms annihilated foreign commerce. Yet the very men who were the authors and advocates of this act, or rather the same class of politicians, some of whom are the same men, at the present day contend that a law requiring payment of a duty of 30 or 40 per cent. on foreign broadcloth is unconstitutional, because, although it does not annihilate, it tends to diminish commerce; for they say the power 'to regulate,' does not authorize Congress for any purpose to clog or discourage commerce. The political conscience of a politician is too frequently an India-rubber conscience. It will extend or contract as the particular
case may require. Forty per cent. duty on cloth is unconstitutional, but 50 per cent. duty on a pound of sugar is perfectly constitutional.--[See Mr. Calhoun's letter to the sugar-planters of Louisiana.]
"In the case of Texas, what surprises me most, is, that the northern members should dare to vote for its annexation with the right of slave representation, thereby making a new contract, by which the slaveholders in the acquired territory are entitled to a property representation which is denied to their own constituents.
"It is literally true, that my representative from New York, has by his vote granted to one Texan as much political power in two branches of the government, as is or can be possessed by two New Yorkers. In excuse for this sacrifice--this bartering away of the political power of his principals,--he says to us he has done this to extend the area of freedom--by securing and perpetuating human slavery in Texas, and in the southern states!
"The annexation of Texas has effected what, you may recollect, I predicted to our friend, Benjamin Lundy, which was, that the slaveholding states would ultimately obtain a majority in the United States Senate. They now have that majority. It will never be changed--no, NEVER.
"Speaking in reference to the political prospects of my country, I must say, my dear Melbourn, that 'I am sick of this vain world.'
"TOBIAS THORNTON."Julius Melbourn, Esq."
Remarks on the Act entitled "An Act reducing the Duties on Imports," which was passed at the first Session of the 29th Congress, in the summer of 1846--in a letter from Mr. Thornton.
MANY readers may consider the discussion contained in the following letter, on the vexed question of the tariff laws of the United States, as dry and tedious; but as the subject is justly regarded both here and in America, as one of great importance, and as Mr. Thornton has presented some novel, and in my judgment, interesting views, which he thinks ought to have a controlling influence on the future legislation of the American republic, I hope I shall be excused for inserting them, and that the reader will not find the time required for their perusal altogether misspent.
"NEW YORK, September 30, 1846.
"I propose to submit some remarks on the bill which was passed near the close of the last session of Congress, repealing the tariff law enacted in 1842. The bill in question not only repeals the then existing law, but establishes a new tariff of duties. It is founded upon the last annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury, and adopts the principles contained in that report. The leading principle inculcated by the Secretary is, that duties for the
PROTECTION of the American producer and manufacturer ought to be abolished; that the doctrine on that subject, which, if not ever since the organization of the government and General Hamilton's celebrated report on domestic manufactures--at least, from the passage of the tariff bill of 1816, has been considered as sound--has been founded upon error, and ought to be repudiated. Indeed, the advocates of the new tariff bill, in both houses of Congress, supported it as a revenue bill alone, and avowed in their speeches that the principle of protection ought to be, and in effect was, by that bill, abandoned.
"That the tariff of 1816 was framed with an express view to, protection, will, I trust, be admitted by every person who has a tolerable acquaintance with the history of our national legislation; as, however, the truth of this assertion may be doubted by some, I will detain you a moment for the purpose of stating, that during the war with Great Britain, which terminated in 1815, a considerable number of cotton factories had been established in the United States. The Congress of 1816 wished to protect those establishments, and also to prevent the drain of specie from this country, which the purchase of foreign fabrics for necessary wearing apparel occasioned. With this view, that Congress, by the tariff of 1816, levied a specific duty on all cotton fabrics brought from beyond the Cape of Good Hope, from whence coarse cottons were then imported, which effectually destroyed that trade, and totally excluded from the American market the cotton cloths brought from that region of the globe. This duty was not laid for the purpose of raising a revenue, but for the purpose of preventing the importation of the foreign article, and thereby diminishing instead of increasing the
revenue. Mr. Calhoun, at that time chairman of the Finance Committee, after remarking that articles imported from south of the Cape of Good Hope could not be obtained by barter, and were of course paid for principally in specie, an operation which produced a fearful balance of trade against this country, said in his place, in my hearing, that for the purpose of preventing this drain of specie, and for the purpose of protecting American manufactures, he was for wholly excluding the importation of those coarse cotton fabrics, and therefore should vote in favor of the proposed specific duty. Hence, it is most evident that that duty was not imposed for the purpose of increasing the revenue; but, on the contrary, it was well known that the inevitable consequence would be to diminish it. Other duties, such as the tax upon imported woollen cloths, wool, iron, hemp, sugar, &c., &c., have been imposed, not, indeed, with a view to exclude the foreign article, but for the purpose of discouraging its importation, and protecting the American grower and manufacturer.
"By the passage of the tariff act of the last session, all branches of the government have abandoned and repudiated the doctrine that 'protection for the sake of protection' ought to be maintained or tolerated by our tariff laws. It is said that a large majority of the people of the United States are in favor of the doctrine put forth in Mr. Walker's report; and even Mr. Clay, the great champion for the protection of home industry, has said that 'protection for the sake of protection' ought no longer to influence the enactment of our impost laws.
"Without discussing the question whether it was wise or unwise in the American people and their government
to abandon the principle of protection, it is sufficient for my purpose to assume, what cannot be denied, that the principle of protection is, in fact, abandoned.
"In justification of the mode of taxation adopted by the bill in question, it is alleged that a system of impost duties levied solely with a view to revenue, incidentally protects the American grower and manufacturer. This is true to a certain extent; but it must not be forgotten that a tariff for revenue alone, like Mr. Walker's tariff, ought always to be so framed as to enable the foreign manufacturer fairly to compete with the American; for if the duty is so high as considerably to diminish importation, a proper regard to the interest of the revenue will of course demand a reduction of the duty. Thus, if a duty of forty per cent. on imported manufactured hats would enable the American hatter, beneficially to himself, so far to supply the home demand as that no more hats than in value will amount to $100,000 can annually be imported without loss, the reduction of the duty to twenty per cent. might enable the foreign hatter so successfully to compete in our market with his brother hatter in America, as to cause an annual importation of hats to the value of $400,000. It will be readily seen that in the one case the treasury would receive $40,000, in the other $80,000, and that in the supposed case the reduction of the one half doubles the amount of revenue: upon the same principle which in the supposed case would require the reduction of the duty on hats, was Mr. Walker's tariff bill framed--at any rate, to be consistent with his avowed principles, it should have been so framed. But it will be perceived, that after the reduction of the duty on hats from 40 to 20 per cent., the American hatter would, in
his business, still have an advantage of 20 per cent. over the foreign manufacturer, and this is called incidental protection.
"Now, admitting that thirty millions of dollars must be annually raised to defray the necessary expenses of government, it is conceded that if that tax can be levied equally, or indeed in a manner which shall approach near to equality, and still afford this incidental protection to our own mechanics, manufacturers, and producers, that mode of taxation ought to be preferred.
"I admit that I have heretofore been in favor of protection for the sake of protection. While the British ports were closed against all the agricultural productions of the grain-growing states, whose population constitutes a great majority of the white population of the Union, and those states produced nothing but a little potash, which the English would receive in payment for their manufactured articles, it seemed to me that the importation of necessary wearing apparel, &c., would eventually produce so great a balance of trade against us as would ensure a drain of specie, which would cripple our commercial operations and prostrate our credit; and especially, that the credit of our banking institutions would be ruined. I also believed that if our manufacturing institutions could be so far protected as to draw away a considerable portion of those engaged in agricultural pursuits into our factories, those employed in factories would require to be supplied with bread-stuffs by the farmer, and that a domestic market would thus be created which would adequately reward the labors of those who continued in the pursuit of agriculture. But the late repeal of the British Corn-Laws has opened to us the principal European markets, and a fair competition for the sale of our butter,
cheese, and all our grains, with all other nations in the world. If the last advices from England are correct, Indian corn, with which millions of acres of our fields are at this moment richly loaded, can be sold in Liverpool and London for one dollar per bushel. This state of things changes the aspect of the question, and I own I begin to doubt whether the time has not arrived when we can, with safety, adopt the maxim of Adam Smith, that a nation ought to sell where it can sell highest, and buy where it can buy cheapest; and thus follow the advice of Mr. Jefferson, that we should have 'our workshops in Europe.' I confess I am now inclined to believe that our laborers would act wisely if they would devote their time to the cultivation of the soil, and by its productions pay for the articles manufactured by the cheap 'pauper labor' of Europe.
"If the American laborer for one bushel of Indian corn can purchase three days' labor in England in fabricating his wearing apparel, is it not wise for him to do so? But, as I have before stated, I do not propose to discuss the question whether protection ought or ought not to be abandoned. That long-disputed point is now settled. Protection is abandoned, and, assuming such to be the fact, the question now is, whether any impost duties on the necessaries of life ought to be levied--and that is the question I propose to discuss.
"It is alleged by the secretary, that to defray the ordinary expenses of the government, thirty millions must in some way be collected by a tax from the people of the United States.
"While I admit, as I have above admitted, that if this thirty millions of dollars can be fairly and justly levied on the people by duties on imported articles, so as incidentally to protect the American manufacturer, grower, and
producer, that mode of taxation ought to be preferred; I trust every fair-minded and candid man will admit, if I can show that a system of taxation by impost not only operates unequally and unjust as between individuals and as between different sections of the Union, but that it is grossly, cruelly, and outrageously both unequal and unjust, that in such case the practice of indirect taxation ought to be abolished, and that of direct adopted. I admit that articles of luxury, such, for instance, as spirituous liquors, wines, and perhaps some articles of wearing apparel, ought to be taxed: it will, however, be found, on examination, that the sum raised from mere articles of luxury is very small, when compared with the amount which by our present system is raised by a tax on necessary wearing apparel, sugar, iron, salt, and other necessaries of life. Before proceeding to state specific objections against impost duties, I will remind you of one general objection. It is this: In all governments, and especially in free governments, the citizen ought to know when, and how much he pays for taxes. Mr. Lewis, Chairman of the Finance Committee, in his speech, lately published, says, and says truly, 'that it is not only the people's right, but the very essence of liberty, that they (the people) should know the amount of taxes they are forced to pay;' and yet the very bill which Mr. Lewis reported, and the passage of which he urged in this speech, provides for the collection of thirty millions of dollars during the next fiscal year, and at the end of that year I will venture, without the fear of contradiction, to say, that neither Mr. Lewis, nor any other man in the United States, will be able to tell how much he has paid in taxes for the support of the government. Does the farmer know, when he buys iron for his ploughshare, or the mechanic
who buys a yard of broadcloth, or the professional man who buys a pound of sugar to sweeten his coffee, or the working girl who lays out the avails of three months labor in a muslin dress, how much they respectively pay in taxes to the government when they make those purchases? According to Mr. Lewis, his bill to the contrary notwithstanding, this objection is conclusive.
"But waiving this objection, I affirm that indirect taxation is grossly unjust, because thereby the citizens of the United States are compelled to pay an immense amount of money which never reaches the national treasury.
"You will not fail to recollect, that all the branches of the government and Mr. Clay at the head of the opposition, agree that protection for protections sake is abandoned; and I now submit another proposition, the truth of which will not be denied, which is, that the CONSUMER of the goods imported pays the whole of the thirty millions proposed to be raised by the impost duties: this, I hope, you will constantly bear in mind, for my reasoning on the question is based entirely on it. We must not forget that the man who buys a pound of brown sugar for nine cents, pays a tax of two cents and seven mills; nor that he who buys a yard of broadcloth of the retailing merchant pays one dollar, or more or less, to the government. But a small proportion, however, of that dollar passes into the treasury of the United States. We all know that the duty, in the first instance, is paid by the importer. He adds the amount paid for duty to the invoice price, and then charges profits on the whole sum advanced by him. He sells to the jobber, of course, at a certain profit. The jobber, who sells to the country merchant, charges him with the amount thus paid to the importer, to which he adds his profits; and the retailing
merchant sells to the consumer, to whom he charges the amount paid by him to the jobber, together with his own profits. Thus it is obvious, that the consumer pays not only the tax, but the profits of the importer, jobber, and retailer on the outlay made by the importer in the payment of the tax, upon the landing of the goods. To make this matter more plain, I will suppose an importer lands in New York goods, the invoice price of which, at Manchester, is $1,000; on these goods I will suppose he pays a duty to the government of 25 per ct.; when, therefore, the importer unpacks his bale of goods in New York, he has paid for it, including the duty, $1,250. He sells this bale to the jobber at a profit, say of 10 per cent. The jobber, therefore, pays for the bale $1,365. He again sells to the retailer at a profit of 15 per cent. on the sum advanced by him. The retailer, therefore, pays for the bale $1,581; and he sells to the consumer at an advance on the amount paid by him of 25 per cent.: so that the consumer pays for this same bale of goods, $1,976. Thus, for the sum of $250, paid by the importer into the U. S. Treasury, the consumer actually pays $395 31. I am not a merchant, and therefore possess no actual knowledge of the usual profits realized in trade. I may have stated the gains of the merchant too high, and I may have stated them too low. But whether I have stated the profits ten or fifteen per cent. too high or too low, can make no difference in relation to the principle for which I contend. Allowing, then, the supposed profits of the merchant to be as stated, it requires but a slight knowledge of arithmetic to enable you to satisfy yourself, that in paying a tax of $30,000,000, the tax payers, that is, the consumers, actually pay $47,437,200; or in other words, they pay $17,437,200 which never reaches the treasury.
"Will any man of common sense say that this is a judicious and fair mode of taxation? I am sure he will not. But this is only a part of the case. The duty on the imported article enables the American manufacturer to sell the same article, manufactured or produced by him, at a price as much higher as the amount of duty raises the imported article above the price it could be sold at were it admitted free of duty.
"I was told a few days ago by a gentleman who for several years has resided at Key West, in the neighborhood of Cuba, that sugar could be manufactured on the island of Cuba at 2½ cents per pound--that is to say, at $2,50 per hundred pounds. If it were admitted duty free, I presume it could be imported into the United States, and a fair profit made by the importer, jobber, and retailer, and be sold here for four cents per pound. Instead of which, under Mr. Walker's bill of reduced duties we shall, I presume, be required to pay six cents per pound; that is to say, we pay four cents a pound for the sugar, and two cents for every pound to the sugar-grower in Louisiana. This principle applies to the producers of iron and hemp--to the salt manufacturer, and more especially to the manufacturer of woollen and cotton cloths.
"I am wholly ignorant of the amount of goods produced and manufactured in this country, on which we charge a duty when imported from abroad, but I do not think it unreasonable to suppose that at least one half of the articles consumed are of American growth or manufacture.
"I will suppose, for illustration, that the dutiable goods imported the year ensuing, will amount to one hundred millions of dollars. Mr. Lewis, in the speech to which I have alluded, calculates that the average of the duties directed
by the bill under consideration, to be levied, is 23½ per cent., and that the amount which will be received into the treasury the ensuing year, will be $23,886,657. Of course he must estimate that the articles imported chargeable with duty, will a little exceed $100,000,000. It will, I think, be a liberal allowance to concede that all over $20,000,000 received under this bill, will be collected from articles of luxury imported, which it is conceded ought to be taxed, and to which my objection does not apply. This, however, leaves the enormous sum of $20,000,000 to be paid by consumers to the manufacturers. To this sum add the $17,437,200 paid by consumers on imported goods, to the retailing merchant, for the profits charged by him, together with the jobber and importer, and you are presented with the fearful amount of $37,437,200, paid by the people under the name of taxes, not one cent of which goes into the treasury of the United States! Conceding, then, as we must, that protection as such ought to be abandoned, and I ask whether any civilized or uncivilized nation under the canopy of heaven ever submitted to such a system of taxation?
"You will perceive that my argument is founded on the assumption that the price paid by the consumer, on any given article, is increased in proportion to the amount of duty paid on such article. The manufacturers, however, have asserted, and for aught I know continue to assert, that this is not true, and that a high duty paid on the imported article, instead of raising the price, actually reduces it; because, say they, the American manufacturer will furnish the article so that it can be sold in market for a less sum than the same article, if imported from abroad, could be sold for, if admitted free of duty. Accidental circumstances may have occasionally produced a
depression in the prices of domestic goods, not long after a high duty had been laid on imported goods of the same kind; but the assertion that the laying of a high duty on the importation of any given article, as for instance, a duty of forty per cent. on imported hats, will not raise the price of hats in this country, is too absurd to require refutation. If a high duty on the foreign article lessens the value of goods of the same kind fabricated by the American manufacturer, I would fain know of him why he clamors for high duties? If his allegation be true, the duties which he calls for will lessen the value of his own goods on hand. In England the laborer works for 25 cents per day; in America he receives 75 cents. In New York, money or capital is worth seven per cent. per annum; in England it is generally worth no more than four and never more than five per cent. per annum. These two simple but undeniable facts tell the whole story.
"I have endeavored to prove that a revenue raised by impost was impolitic and unjust, because, by that mode of taxation, (the tax-payer being the consumer,) in the collection of a tax of thirty millions of dollars, the people of the United States were compelled to pay more than thirty-seven millions of dollars which never reached the national treasury; and I now propose to show that this mode of taxation is grossly unequal and unjust, as between individual tax-payers.
"It will, I presume, be conceded, that in equity and good conscience every citizen ought to contribute or pay towards defraying the expenses of the government under which he lives, according to his pecuniary ability, and in proportion to the value of his property which is protected by the government. This principle is admitted to be equitable, and is adopted by the laws of every state in the
Union. If the value of real and personal estate in the county of Washington be five millions of dollars, and the money required to be raised by tax in the county be $25,000, this would be one half per cent. on the assessed value of each citizen's real and personal estate. Therefore A, whose property is worth $10,000, will be required to pay, as his portion of the $25,000, $50, while B, whose property is assessed at $1000, pays but $5. It may be said that B's personal liberty is as dear to him as the personal liberty of A is to A, and therefore B ought to pay something in the nature of a poll-tax for the protection of the rights of his person. But it has been held in this, and most if not all the other states in the Union, that the time devoted by B to the performance of military duty, which he is ten times less able to spend than A, should be considered an equivalent for a poll-tax. That this is fair and equitable, seems now to be conceded by every right-minded man.
"Assuming, then, that every citizen ought to pay towards the expenses of the government, in proportion to the value of his property which is protected by government, I proceed to inquire whether impost duties ought to be sustained as the sole means of defraying the expenses of the general government; and here I must again entreat you to recollect, that by the tariff of 1846 the doctrine of protection for the sake of protection is repudiated and abolished, and also, that a tax by impost is every dollar of it paid by the consumer.
"To show that the impost system is unequal and unjust, as between individuals, it is only necessary to reflect that the poor man, with a large family of children, consumes nearly as much of the articles which are taxed as his rich neighbor with the same number of children; and
in the proportion which he consumes, in that proportion he pays taxes: the greater part of revenue raised by impost being collected from a tax on the necessaries of life, such for instance as imported medicines, salt, iron, cotton and woollen cloths, &c., &c. To illustrate my views on this subject more clearly, I will suppose that in order to raise thirty millions of dollars, which the Secretary of the United States Treasury thinks will be necessary to defray the annual current expenses of the national government, a tax of one mill on a dollar is required to be paid on the assessed value of the property of each citizen of the state of New York. By this tax $100,000 value of property would pay $100. Now, I will suppose Mr. R. to be worth $98,000. Again, I will suppose Mr. C., an industrious, respectable farmer, to be worth $2000 only. It is obvious that of the $100 required to be paid on the $100,000, Mr. R. ought to pay to the national treasury, and under a system of direct taxation would be required to pay, $98, and Mr. C. $2, and in this way the $100 tax would be satisfied. But how much do those gentlemen actually pay according to the impost system?
"I will suppose that Mr. R.'s family consists of six persons, and Mr. C.'s family consists of twelve persons. I am aware that Mr. R., being a man of wealth, consumes more in his family in proportion to its numbers than Mr. C. does in his; but it will be, I conceive, a liberal allowance to assume that Mr. C.'s family of twelve persons consumes no more than Mr. R.'s of six. Upon this supposition, however, Mr. C. will be compelled to pay $50 of the $100 tax; in other words, he pays $48 in taxes which Mr. R. ought to pay; and this $48, Mr. C. pays for incidental protection to the manufacturer, and the owner of iron mines in Peru! Repudiate the doctrine
of 'protection for the sake of protection,' and I ask, Is this right? Is it just?
"The case I have supposed is a common, a very ordinary one; were I to refer to an extreme case, I would suppose that the whole assessed property, real and personal, in the county of Washington, is about five and a half millions of dollars. John Jacob Astor is said to be worth more than five millions of dollars. At his time of life, the number of his family, including his domestics, probably does not exceed ten. Now, I will venture to assert, that there are many families in the county of Washington who are not worth a single cent over and above what would be necessary to pay their debts, and who are supported by the daily labor of the adults in such families, and yet each of those families consumes at least one-half as much of the necessaries of life, on which impost duties are laid, as Mr. Astor; and therefore, two of these poor families pay as much, or nearly as much, towards defraying the expenses of the general government as John Jacob Astor.
"I will not follow out this reasoning any further. Enough has been said to convince any man, susceptible of conviction, that the system of indirect taxation, as respects individuals, is grossly unequal and unjust, and that as respects the poor, it is cruel and oppressive.
"I will now proceed to show that the impost system is unequal and unjust, as respects different sections of the United States.
"With this view I affirm, that in the free and grain-growing states there is a much larger consumption of dutiable articles, in proportion to the number of persons, than in the planting and slaveholding states. At the north and west the free laborer's wearing apparel, and a considerable
part of his food and his medicine are taxed. In the southern states, nearly the whole of the manual labor is performed by slaves; and but a very small portion of what is consumed by the slave, either for food or apparel, is subject to duty. Salt, to season the food of the slave, is used with great economy; and I am told that on many plantations no salt at all is allowed. A little molasses, to render the hominy of the slave more palatable and nutritious, is sometimes used, but according to report, this luxury is rarely allowed. These are almost, if not quite, the only articles of food for the field-slave which are taxed.
"In the sunny and warm climate of the states south of the Potomac river, little clothing is required for slaves; and on that little but a very small duty is paid, when compared with the duty paid on the clothes worn by the free laborer of the north. The clothes worn by the negro are of the coarsest and cheapest kind. The negro cloths for the winter season, except those which are spun and woven in the families to which the slave belongs, are fabricated at the east, from Smyrna wool, which consists of mere tag-locks, and which, to favor the slave-owner, under the act of 1842, and for some time before, was allowed to be imported on paying the nominal duty of five per cent. ad valorem. This was consented to by the members from the grain-growing states, in the hope, which has proved vain, that this arrangement, being so favorable to the slaveholder, would mollify the opposition of the south to a protective tariff. I speak without book, and entirely from conjecture, but will venture the assertion, that the 2,487,113 slaves at the south do not consume one-hundredth part as much in value of dutiable articles as the same number of laboring free people at the north.
"The state of Massachusetts, in 1840, had a population of 737,639, and at the same period South Carolina possessed a population of 594,398, in which was included 327,038 slaves. I am not aware that the treasury of the United States has ever made any effort to ascertain the quantity of goods, &c., consumed in the several states, and we are therefore compelled to resort entirely to conjecture. If, however, the amount in value of dutiable articles consumed in Massachusetts and South Carolina could be accurately ascertained, I presume it would turn out that the people of Massachusetts consume three times as much in value as the people (including the slaves) of South Carolina. If this hypothesis is correct, a citizen of Massachusetts, under the present system, pays in taxes, on the necessaries of life, three dollars, when the citizen of South Carolina is required to pay but little more than one.
"Owing to a want of statistical knowledge, my reasoning on this branch of my subject is necessarily, in a great degree, founded, as I have before stated, on conjecture; but I trust no intelligent man will deny the truth of the general proposition, that the grain-growing states, in proportion to the number of their inhabitants, consume vastly more of articles which are taxed, than the inhabitants of the planting states, reckoning the slaves as a portion of the inhabitants of the states last mentioned; and if such be the fact, it is most obvious that in the same proportion the former pay a higher tax than the latter. Is this right? Can this mode of taxation be pronounced equal as respects the different sections of the country? And is not this a case to which the celebrated maxim of Chancellor Walworth, 'that equality is equity,' is peculiarly applicable?
"If the systems of direct and indirect taxation were
equally just as respects individuals, and as respects the different sections of the country, there is still another reason, independent of the principle laid down by Mr. Lewis, why direct taxation should be preferred to indirect. This reason I shall now proceed to state, with the same freedom that I have exercised in discussing every other branch of this important and interesting inquiry, notwithstanding the extreme sensibility which has been manifested 'here and elsewhere' in relation to the subject which I propose to present for your consideration.
"In the compromising convention which formed the United States constitution, the slaveholding states were allowed a property representation in the House of Representatives and in the electoral colleges, while, by the same constitution, a representation on account of property was denied to the non-slaveholding states. I say, a property representation, because slaves, by the laws of every state where slavery is tolerated, are declared property. Those states, therefore, are estopped from denying that slaves are property, whatever questions may be raised on that subject by the moralists and politicians in other states and countries.
"That this provision in the constitution, permitting a representation in proportion to the number of slaves, gives to the slave states an unequal share of political power as respects the free states, everybody knows. Under that provision in the constitution, at this moment, South Carolina, at a ratio of 70,680 inhabitants for one representative in the United States House of Representatives, with a free population of only 267,361, sends to that body SEVEN members: whereas, with a free population of 2,428,921, New York is represented by thirty-four members only. Hence it is evident, that while 71,438 free persons in New
York are entitled to but one member, in South Carolina 38,194 of the same description of persons have the right to be represented in our national legislature by a member. To exhibit this disparity more clearly, it is sufficient to state the fact, that Vermont, with a free population of 291,948, has but four members, while South Carolina, with a free population, as before stated, of 267,361, has seven representatives. Need I add what is most palpable, that because South Carolina has 327,038 slaves, one freeman in that state possesses nearly as much political power as two freemen in the state of New York!
"Under this clause in the constitution the southern states, even by the present high ratio of representation, have, in the House of Representatives and in the electoral colleges, twenty representatives more than their population would entitle them to, were it not that they own 2,487,113 slaves. And here I cannot refrain from reminding you that the power thus granted to them has not remained dormant in their hands. Some of the most important measures (whether for weal or wo is not now the subject of inquiry) as respects the interests, rights, and power of the nation, in all time to come, have been carried against the wishes of a large majority of the representatives from the free states by a united southern vote; and that vote has been made to preponderate by means of the slave representation. Such was the admission of Missouri into the Union, with the right of slaveholding and slave representation; and such was the admission of Texas, which brought with it the Mexican war. Even the tariff law of 1846, which is one of the most important laws ever passed by Congress--for it not only fixes a tariff of duties and repeals the tariff of 1842, but it declares and establishes the vitally important principle, that protection for
the sake of protection ought to be abandoned--was passed by means of the slave representation.
"Why did the grain-growing states concede to the planting states a property representation, and withhold from themselves the same right? Why this grant of superior political power to the south? Every schoolboy can answer these questions, because the answer is contained in the constitution itself. That constitution declares that 'representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included in this Union, according to their respective numbers.' It then provides that five slaves shall, in making the enumeration, be considered equal to three freemen. The slave states consented to pay taxes in proportion to their representation, in consideration of which the free states agreed that they should be entitled to a representation for their slaves. Thus, suppose the sum of eleven hundred thousand dollars was to be raised from two states, say South Carolina and Vermont. The former being entitled to seven members and the latter to four, South Carolina would be required by direct taxation to pay $700,000, and Vermont $400,000. Now, it will not be denied that at the time of the adoption of the federal constitution, it was universally believed that the government would be mainly supported by direct taxation. Hence, I say that the consideration which induced the free states to yield to the south a property representation was, that it should pay taxes in proportion to its representation. At that early day the patriots, fresh from the field of the revolutionary struggle, intended to carry out the great principle for which they had so recently contended at the risk of their lives and fortunes, (and, indeed, a violation of this principle by the British parliament, caused the American Revolution,) that is to say, that taxation
and representation should go hand in hand, and bear an equal proportion to each other.
"It can hardly be necessary for me to put you in mind that by a system of indirect taxation, which compels the consumer to pay the whole expenses of government, the planting states wholly fail to pay the consideration for the grant of that high prerogative--a property representation.
"I ask, then, in all frankness and candor, whether from this view of the case an additional reason is not furnished for abolishing the indirect and adopting the direct system of taxation?
"I now most respectfully submit to your judgment, whether the practice of defraying the expenses of government by impost duties alone ought longer to be tolerated as a revenue system, and whether the incidental protection it affords to the grower, producer, and manufacturer, is not purchased (being purchased as it is by the laboring poor) at too dear a rate?
"But the manufacturers and producers tell us that the incidental protection afforded by Mr. Walker's tariff, is entirely insufficient to sustain them; that without more efficient aid from government, their woollen, and, it may be, their cotton mills must stand still, and their iron ore remain buried in the earth. If this declaration be true, it makes the tariff law of 1846 what Mr. Walker intended it should be--a law enacted for the sole and only purpose of raising a revenue. Viewing it, then, as exclusively a revenue bill, I do not hesitate to pronounce it to be what I think I have proved it to be, partial, unequal, unjust, and oppressive, and cruel to the laboring poor of the middle, western, and northern states.
"It may naturally be asked why, if the impost system be attended with the evils, and be as partial and unjust as
I have represented, it has been so long quietly submitted to? Why has not an outcry been long ago raised against it? In replying to these questions, I would in my turn ask, how did it happen that the monopoly of banking was so long acquiesced in without a murmur or word of complaint? Why was the feudal system submitted to, and the divine right of kings admitted by the people of all the European nations for more than twelve hundred years since the Christian era?
"Time and long experience are necessary in order to convince the masses of moral, social, and political truths, especially when a few influential individuals are interested to delude them. Rich and influential men, though they themselves may be convinced that their poor neighbors pay more in taxes than their proportion, will be tardy in their endeavors to convince those poor neighbors that such is the fact. How soon will Mr. R., in the case I have supposed, make an effort, in good faith, to prove to Mr. C. that he pays forty-eight dollars, annually, towards defraying the expenses of government, which in equity and good conscience Mr. R. himself ought to pay? Poor human nature must greatly change, or he will never do it.
"In further explanation of the causes of the apathy of politicians in relation to this subject, it may be remarked, that when the impost system was first introduced by Gen. Hamilton, it was warmly opposed by many republican members of Congress, but that northern politicians then endeavored to prevent, and have ultimately succeeded in preventing, the masses from comparing the systems of direct and indirect taxation, with respect to the inequality of their operation, because the northern statesman was anxious to PROTECT our infant manufactories; and the southern gentlemen, while they made loud professions of
free-trade principles, were desirous to conceal the odious features of indirect taxation, because a disclosure would produce a change which would subject their section of the country to pay a much larger portion of taxes than they pay under the present system; and would result in the adoption of a mode of taxation which would require them, as the constitution intended, to pay for their slave representation. The free-trade system which they advocate does indeed leave their trade free or nearly so, but it leaves the expenses of the government to be paid mainly by the laboring poor of the grain-growing states.
"The signs of the times indicate that this great question is about to receive the consideration by the statesmen and people of this nation, and especially by those of the northern, middle, and western states, which its importance eminently demands.
"And, if upon a full and fair investigation, it shall be found that the 'INCIDENTAL' protection afforded by a tariff for revenue alone will not sustain our manufactories, our sheep-growers, producers of iron, &c.--if it is contrary to the genius of our institutions, and Mr. Lewis admits that it is, that a citizen should be compelled to pay taxes without the possibility of knowing when and what amount of tax he pays--if the system of impost in its operation be unjust and unequal, as respects different sections of the nation--if by means of the slave representation, contrary to the intention of the framers of the constitution, the sacred principle that taxation and representation should be proportioned, the one to the other, be by indirect taxation flagrantly violated--if the whole national revenue is to be extorted from the consumer, and therefore principally from the laboring poor--and, if by this system the people of the United States, in order to pay thirty millions of dollars
into the treasury of the United States, are obliged actually to pay more than sixty millions of dollars,--I humbly conceive and ardently hope that at no distant day the course of legislation on the subject will be changed, and that it will be controlled by an avowed regard to PROTECTION for our manufacturers, growers, and producers; or, that mere 'INCIDENTAL' protection will be abandoned and repudiated, and that a system of FREE TRADE, not nominal but real, will be permanently established.
The Author visits New England--Boston--Prejudices in New England against People of Color--A Female Abolitionist--Distinguished Citizens of the State of New York who belong to the Abolition Party.
In my excursions at the north, I had not travelled as much in New England, or made myself as well acquainted with "the Universal Yankee Nation" at home, as was desirable; and therefore, in the summer of 1834, I determined to spend the greater part of it in the celebrated, ancient, and interesting section which has been, and perhaps not inappropriately, called the Land of the Pilgrims.
I went directly to Boston. This city, if we consider Cambridge as an appendage to it, claims to be, and in fact is, the Athens of America. Its literary coterie, and the periodical publications which issue from Boston and its vicinity, are of a higher character than any others on the continent. John Quincy Adams, Judge Story, the
Everetts, the Quincys, Bancroft, Mrs. Child, &c., have acquired a reputation for extensive learning, genius, and scientific attainments, which certainly entitle them to a distinguished station among the literati of the age. I may also remark that Boston, in proportion to the number of its inhabitants, is supposed to contain more wealth than any other city in America.
The people of New England possess much of that spirit of daring enterprise which was exhibited by Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, and others, in the time of Elizabeth of England, and which marked the character of the Reformers in Great Britain, during the revolution which occurred in the reign of the elder Charles,--as well as the stern virtues of the pilgrims who planted themselves on the rock of Plymouth. But although the enterprising spirit of the Puritans, as respects the business concerns of life, has been transmitted to, and exists in full vigor in, the present generation of their descendants, the religious zeal and theological principles of a great majority of the latter have undergone important and radical changes. A part of them, and a very large and respectable part, have become Unitarians; some are Methodists, some Baptists, some Transcendentalists, and others are Freethinkers, or Deists. The disciples of Fanny Wright meet, I am informed, regularly on Sundays; public lectures are delivered, and debates are had, the object of which is to prove that the notion of a divine revelation is a fallacy.
With what horror and detestation would old Cotton Mather, or the venerable Governor Winthrop, or the zealous and fanatical Sir Henry Vane, have viewed such a conventicle! Not only the spiritual power, but the arm of flesh, would have been put in requisition to exterminate
such bold blasphemers. A remnant of the Puritans still remains, and their doctrines are yet taught in the theological school at Andover; but that ancient and venerable seat of learning, Harvard College, at Cambridge, has passed into the hands of, and is now controlled by, the Unitarians. It still, however, retains its high character as a literary institution.
The people of New England are firm advocates of equal rights, jealous of their personal liberty, and unanimously opposed to African slavery; and yet, in no part of America, and of course in no part of the habitable globe, is the prejudice against the color of the black man stronger than in New England. To prove this assertion, I will relate one or two instances which fell under my own observation.
Many of the colored citizens of Boston are members of religious societies and congregations, the major part of which consists of white people. One Saturday evening, while I was in Boston, I was informed that a lecture preparatory to the administration of the sacrament would be delivered in one of the churches, and that the colored brethren of the congregation were especially requested to attend. This announcement induced me to go and hear the lecture. I found there more than a hundred male and female adult colored people. The preacher, after discussing the topics usual on such occasions, addressed himself particularly to his colored brothers and sisters, as he called them. He told them that it had pleased God to establish a difference between them and their white brethren; that they must not repine nor complain because they were doomed to an inferior station in society. He reminded them of the sin of their ancestor Ham, on whose account they were degraded by the fiat of a just God; that they
must not imagine themselves socially equal to the white Christians because they were permitted to sit with them at the communion-table; and that spiritual pride was at war with a truly Christian spirit. He exhorted them not to aspire in society to equality with their white brethren; he charged them never to forget their place in community, or in the church; he recommended humility as a Christian virtue, which they in particular ought to possess; and concluded by charging them to sit together during the administration of the ordinance, at the same time assuring them that they should be served immediately after their white brethren had partaken of the sacrament. Can such religious instruction tend to the diffusion of the Christian virtues, or the moral elevation of the negro race? I confess I left the assembly with feelings more indignant than charitable.
A day or two after attending this meeting I took my seat in a stage-coach for the purpose of going to Worcester, an old inland town in Massachusetts. There were but two other passengers, and both were females. One of them was an old lady whom I had before seen in Boston, and the other was a gayly-dressed woman of perhaps twenty-eight or thirty years of age. Her countenance was a little tinged with melancholy, but she had, if not a handsome, rather an intellectual face. She appeared disposed to be quite sociable, and I soon found she was a single woman and kept a boarding-school in one of the country towns about twenty miles from Boston. We talked on various subjects, and she afforded evidence that she had read a good many books, and especially all the novels then in vogue. She was particularly eloquent in praise of Sir Walter Scott. Accidentally the abolition societies, which were then forming in Massachusetts, were
spoken of, and the outbreak of the mob which had lately occurred at Lynn. The lady declared herself a zealous abolitionist, and denounced with great bitterness the slaveholders of the south. I told her I believed that some of them were benevolent and good men; but this she sternly contradicted. I urged in excuse for the slaveholder his pecuniary interest, and the effect of education, and in the course of my remarks said that I myself was born a slave, and had been emancipated by the benevolence of the person who owned me.
"How can that be possible?" said the lady: "I thought none but negroes could be enslaved anywhere."
I told her that my mother was a mulatto woman and slave, and that I was at least one quarter of negro blood. She bridled up, appeared alarmed and offended, and remarked, with great solemnity, that it was highly improper for negroes, or those related to them, to attempt to associate with white people.
"Folks," she said, "ought to know their places;" and turning to the old lady, she said, "travelling in public conveyances was becoming every day worse and worse regulated."
After this courteous speech she maintained a dignified silence, which of course I did not attempt to disturb.
If I had leisure, and could presume on the patience of the reader, I could write a volume on the peculiar habits and modes of thinking of the people of New England, and on the incidents which occurred during the three months which I spent among them; but fearing that my lucubrations will become tedious to those who may condescend to peruse these sheets, and being myself just now preparing to make a journey to Paris, and probably to the eternal city, old Rome, I will close for the present by
stating, that in my judgment the masses in New England are better educated, and possess more general information, than the masses of any other people; but that they themselves estimate their superiority to be much greater than it really is. We have been long since admonished, by an eminent poet, that "a little learning is a dangerous thing," and each man in New England has "a little learning." He, therefore, easily persuades himself that he knows a gŕeat deal: he finds his neighbors know about as much as he does, and he and his neighbors, with great unanimity and complacency, arrive at the conclusion that they are vastly superior in intellectual attainments to any other portion of the human race. I by no means intend these remarks as applicable to the highest class of educated men in the land of the Pilgrims. I speak of the masses only.
Both the English and American reader, who is at all acquainted with the history of the non-slaveholding states in America, know that a short time before the period about which I am now writing, a few intelligent and benevolent citizens formed an association at Philadelphia, with the declared object of attempting to effect, by peaceable means and by moral suasion, the abolition of slavery in the United States. The object of the association was laudable, and evidently addressed itself to the best feelings of the patriot and the philanthropist. The reasons why so few of the merchants, of the manufacturers, of the politicians, and of the clergy, joined this association, are well set forth by my friend Thornton in his conversation with Mr. Lundy.*
* See Chapter VII.
Unfortunately those few who did become members of this society were not practical men, but were governed more by theoretical notions than by actual experience, or they were over-zealous religionists. The most efficient and
* See Chapter VII.
influential men among them were citizens of the great state of New York; and during my visits to that state, whether with a view to business or pleasure, I took pains, from the deep interest I felt in the great enterprise in which they were engaged, to become personally acquainted with several of them.
ARTHUR TAPPAN, an importing merchant of the city of New York, was, I believe, the first president of the society. Mr. Tappan pursues with great zeal every scheme which he projects as a merchant, or as a member of the Presbyterian church. I am not aware that he has ever permitted himself to take much interest in political contests, except the part which he has taken in opposition to negro slavery. He and his brother Lewis, however, are zealously and sincerely engaged in efforts to promote the diffusion of abolition principles; but not having been trained as combatants in political contests, and being actively engaged in extensive commercial transactions, they have never been able to produce much effect, or make any considerable number of converts to the cause of abolitionism in the great city of New York.
The Hon. WILLIAM JAY, whose residence is chiefly at his country seat in Westchester county, in the mansion house of his venerable and venerated father, Gov. JOHN JAY, well known and highly esteemed, both in England and America, is undoubtedly one of the most efficient and able friends of universal emancipation of the present age. Of this gentleman, of his quiet and retired life, of his distinguished talents, and of the entire absence of all selfish motives which in the least control his action, I have already spoken.*
GERRIT SMITH, Esq., of Madison county, is a conscientious and zealous abolitionist. Mr. Smith is one of the largest landholders in the state of New York. He is constitutionally a man of universal, ardent benevolence. He first distinguished himself as a patron of the Colonization Society; and soon after he came into the possession of his large estate, he subscribed $10,000, to be expended by that society. But he afterwards satisfied himself that its operations, instead of enfranchising, would tend to rivet the chains of the slave. He therefore became a zealous, liberal, and working member of the abolition party. Mr. Smith's personal appearance is very prepossessing. His heart and hand are open to relieve the wants and distresses of all men. Though he has not been bred to any profession, he is an interesting and accomplished orator, and his public addresses are always well received, and produce great effect. Impelled by a high sense of duty, he, to whom wealth, talents, and personal popularity seemed to promise the highest honors of the Empire State, sacrificed all those fascinating and brilliant prospects, so well calculated to dazzle the youthful mind, for the sake of advocating the cause of the degraded and down-trodden slave. A God of infinite benevolence will reward him.*
* Mr. Smith has recently made a donation of ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND ACRES of land, lying in the state of New York, to be divided equally among three thousand colored men. Of course each of the donees are entitled to forty acres of land. This munificent gift, probably greater in value than has ever been bestowed by any individual citizen of the state, it is hoped will be of essential use in promoting the comfort and elevating the character of our colored population. It will draw into the country a large portion of them from our cities and villages, who either idle away their time, or are engaged in servile employments. When thus removed from scenes which too often allure them to vice and crime, their time will be occupied in the independent and honorable employment of cultivating their own farms. None but GERRIT SMITH would have done this.--Editor.
But these men, however conscientious or pure may be their motives,
* Mr. Smith has recently made a donation of ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND ACRES of land, lying in the state of New York, to be divided equally among three thousand colored men. Of course each of the donees are entitled to forty acres of land. This munificent gift, probably greater in value than has ever been bestowed by any individual citizen of the state, it is hoped will be of essential use in promoting the comfort and elevating the character of our colored population. It will draw into the country a large portion of them from our cities and villages, who either idle away their time, or are engaged in servile employments. When thus removed from scenes which too often allure them to vice and crime, their time will be occupied in the independent and honorable employment of cultivating their own farms.
None but GERRIT SMITH would have done this.--Editor.
or however great and shining their talents, are not calculated, in the present state of society in New York, to form and build up a party which can obtain a political ascendency. The gentlemen I have mentioned inculcate only what they deem to be right, not what is expedient. They promise no office, nor its emolument. They devise no schemes or stratagems to detach men from other parties. They address themselves solely to the consciences of their fellow-citizens. They are, I think, too proscriptive. You cannot become a member of their party without you consent to occupy the bed of Procrustes.
* This gentleman was the candidate of the Liberty party for governor in 1844.--Eaitor.
is a lawyer of considerable eminence. He is a man of most intense and ardent feeling, and one of the most amusing speakers I ever heard. When disposed to excite the risibility of his hearers, the most grave audience cannot resist him. To avoid laughing when he chooses to provoke laughter, "exceeds all power of face." His wit is of a singular character, if, indeed, that can be called wit which does not consist in keenness of repartee. Mr. Stewart excites laughter by an odd or rather queer combination of ideas. The fancy is amused and delighted by his jumbling together thoughts which no imagination but Mr. Stewart's could bring together. He produces the same effects on the mind as the kaleidescope does on the sight. His illustrations, too, are original, unique, and wonderfully amusing. No man ever
* This gentleman was the candidate of the Liberty party for governor in 1844.--Eaitor.
possessed a more luxuriant imagination than Alvan Stewart. He has read much, and his memory is very tenacious, extending to names and dates and other minute particulars.
All the gentlemen I have mentioned are pious, and, I fear, somewhat fanatical, except Mr. Jay, who is an Episcopalian, and who, though undoubtedly a devout Christian, is perfectly free from enthusiasm.
I cannot conclude this catalogue of leading abolitionists in the state of New York without naming one other gentleman, who, so far from being fanatical, is as zealous, and I may add, as honest a Deist, as Mr. Tappan or Mr. Smith are honest and zealous Presbyterians. That gentleman's name is JULIUS R. AMES, of Albany, the son of a celebrated painter of that city. Mr. Ames is a bachelor of easy fortune. He follows no profession or business, but devotes himself entirely to acts of charity and benevolence. He has been from a boy an ardent champion of equal rights; and more consistent than many of our most distinguished democrats, Mr. Ames cannot believe that one man can rightfully own another. He has contributed much by his personal influence, by his purse, and by his labors with his pen, to advance the cause of anti-slavery. No matter whether a man is a Whig or a Democrat, (though Mr. A., I believe, belongs to the Democratic party,) a Catholic, a Jew, a Methodist, or a disciple of Fanny Wright, if he holds to the doctrine of equal rights, and is disposed to carry out that doctrine by removing the shackles from the slave, Mr. Ames hails him as a brother.
Besides the gentlemen I have named, there are so many others, eminent for their talents and standing in society, who belong to the abolition party, that it may almost appear invidious to have referred in particular to those
individuals. There is also a great number of newspapers belonging to the party, published weekly, and some daily, which advocate with great zeal and ability the cause of universal emancipation. I could name some of the ablest editors in America whose labors are devoted to this great and good cause.
There are likewise many distinguished individuals, who belong to one or other of the two great political parties, who, on all proper occasions, avow abolition principles, but who think it unwise to organize, or encourage the organization, of a political party distinct from the other two parties. These gentlemen will be found, and in my judgment it is fortunate they can be found, in the ranks of both the great parties. Among these friends of liberty and of man, are WILLIAM H. SEWARD, late governor of the state of New York; HARMANUS BLEEKER, late the American diplomatic representative at the Court of the King of the Netherlands; GEORGE P. BARKER, late attorney-general of the state of New York; THEODORE SEDGWICK, an able lawyer and eminent citizen of the city of New York; WILLIAM C. BRYANT, of the Evening Post, eminent, not only as an able, independent editor, but as a man of distinguished genius; the talented and philanthropic HORACE GREELEY, of the New York Tribune; and THURLOW WEED, of Albany, late printer to the state of New York. These gentlemen, in conjunction with many others, are, by their influence in society, and with their respective political parties, doing much for the cause of universal emancipation, and for restoring the colored man to the station among men to which, by the laws of nature and nature's God, he is entitled.
The abolitionists proper, or, as they now call themselves, the Liberty party, considering the present state of
society in America, are not, in my opinion, calculated to gather or build up a political party which will ever attract to its standard a majority of the people. This is not owing to any want of talent or personal merit in their leaders; on the contrary, I do not believe that any party in the state of New York ever existed, which, in proportion to its numbers, contained more talent, and wealth, and personal worth. Their defect, in my judgment, consists in this. They lose sight of the maxim, that you must deal with the mass of mind according to its actual state and condition, and that you must address society as it is. The abolitionists, though they read their Bible much, forget that St. Paul, one of the most successful partisans that ever lived, became "all things to all men." What opinion should we form of a physician who should direct the same regimen for a man exhausted with a wasting fever, as for the man in high health?
Animadversions on the Sermon of the Rev Mr. Parker, of Boston--Tammany Hall Resolutions on Negro Suffrage--Impudent interference of Mr. Ritchie--Character given by Mr. Clay of his man Charles--By Mr. Upshur of his slave, David Rich--Conclusion.
LONDON, April 30, 1846.
THIS morning, in looking over a file of American newspapers, my attention was arrested by the following article, contained in one of the Boston journals. The article is headed,
"The Rev. Theodore Parker, of Roxbury, Massachusetts," says the editor, "preached, for the first time since his return from Europe, last Sunday at his own church. A hearer reports the following as one of the passages of his discourse:
"On arriving in Europe, the first sensation an American traveller felt was the strangeness which pervaded the face of every thing--all bore the marks of stability, of age, and of the past--when here all was the reverse. He spoke of the brutality and degradation of the poor and laboring classes in England, as compared with the same classes here, and of the contempt with which the British aristocracy regard man as man. There, things were held in higher estimation than man,--while here, with all our lust for gain, the divine nature of man was respected far above things.
"England was, for the rich and noble, a paradise; for the good and wise, a purgatory; and, for the laboring poor, a hell. Although from the very depths of his heart he detested slavery, in all its forms, yet he should think the condition of the mass of the laboring classes there was sufficiently wretched and miserable to induce them to fall on their knees and beg to be admitted to the worst condition of southern slavery."
It is true, the condition of the British laborer is very miserable, but that condition is in a great degree produced by the high price of breadstuffs, which is occasioned by the corn laws. That cruel and oppressive mode of taxation on the necessaries for the subsistence of human life is, however, being ameliorated, and well-founded hopes may now be cherished that the time will soon come when corn will be as cheap in London as in New York, with the trifling addition of the expense of transportation from the latter to the former place.
An American writer, who, whatever may have been his faults or his errors on other questions, appears well acquainted with the recent changes which have occurred in England, when speaking of the improvements lately made by the English in their laws, and in their social relations and commercial affairs, says :--
"Since 1819, Britain has destroyed her rotten borough representation in the three kingdoms, and given Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Greenock, and other populous communities, a voice in her parliament. She has put down the usurped borough governments which obtained in her towns and cities; given the towns improved municipal charters, with the power of electing their mayors, aldermen, &c., and improving the condition of, and educating
the masses. She has broken down, in Ireland, the close borough system, insomuch that the proscription and favoritism of old times are at an end, and Daniel O'Connell, a Roman Catholic, has been mayor of Dublin. She has reduced the seven cent stamp duty on newspapers to two cents, mail postage included--and has led the way to a reduction of letter postage, charging only two cents for a letter, any distance,--charged by us yet five to ten, and for which she formerly exacted ten cents to half a crown, while we demanded six cents to fifty. She has neither broken down the Bank of England nor a paper currency, but she has changed an irredeemable paper circulating medium into gold and silver for all sums under $25; and her $25, and higher denominations of bank notes are redeemable always in gold at the Bank of England, which is under an efficient supervision, including real publicity, and no safety-fund political machinery to mar its usefulness.
"Britain, too, since 1819, has emancipated both Protestants and Catholics,--the latter from many grievous disabilities, which had previously made them a discontented, persecuted people--and the former, when dissenters from the Protestant Episcopal church, by removing the test acts and oppressions which kept Presbyterians, Quakers, Independents, Methodists, in many cases, out of places of power and trust; has endowed many schools in Ireland, and some in England; encouraged mechanics' institutes, and the spread of scientific knowledge; and lessened the disabilities under which the Jews suffered. She has made many and valuable reforms in her colonies; given the Canadians the local administration of their township and county affairs, lent them large sums of money, given them munificent grants for canals and railroads, lent them millions and endorsed the loans, and done much for
the numbers of wretched, hopeless victims who pine in shackles. While we are doing our very best to increase the numbers of wretched, hopeless victims who pine in slavery, and cursing new regions of God's earth with that horrid scourge, Britain has paid nearly four hundred millions of dollars to blot out African bondage from the face of the earth; she has greatly improved her jury and libel laws; she has humanized her penal code; she has done more than we, within the last thirty years, to make the civil code clear, distinct, and suitable to the condition of society and her institutions. The cruel restrictions on a free press, which banished many and imprisoned more, are chiefly repealed; the navigation laws reduced into one act; excellent amendments made in many of her courts of justice, as to their procedure; her STAMP duties lessened; and while salt, soap, tea, sugar, coffee, and a thousand other things of more or less utility, are either freed from taxation, or the tax on them lessened at least fifty millions a year--a direct tax of twelve cents per pound is laid on the incomes of all men worth over seven hundred dollars a year, whether from bank stock or broad acres, but persons under seven hundred dollars a year income pay none of it. Not long since she took three millions of dollars, yearly duty, off American cotton; and she prohibits the growth of tobacco in the United Kingdom, giving us the virtual monopoly of supplying her. Under the proposed system of trade, Buffalo and Lockport will soon have as deep an interest in peace with England as Charleston now has. These, and many other changes for the better, including the breaking up of the monopoly of the East India Company to supply teas, and trade between India and the United Kingdom, the reduction of the tithe system, especially in Ireland, and the
expenditure of many millions on railroads, turnpikes, canals, bridges, and an infinite number of other useful works, are only a part of the recent reforms."
Mr. Parker, who claims to be an ambassador of the benevolent Jesus, and of the great and kind Father of all human souls, speaks of the "Divine nature of MAN," which he says in America "is respected." Alas! how is the divine nature of man respected in the slaveholding states in America? What people in any age, in any part of the globe, have so shamelessly and barbarously outraged the dignity of human nature as the American slaveholders? The reverend gentleman affords evidence in the very next sentence he uttered, that this assertion was not hastily made, and that when he challenges the approbation of his audience for the evidence manifested by the American people of their regard for the "Divine nature of man," he had in his view negro slavery; for he immediately adds, that the condition of the laboring classes in England is worse than that of the American slave, and so much worse, that the English laborer would "fall down on his knees and beg to be admitted to the worst condition of southern slavery."
Mr. Parker well knew that the ægis of the law is thrown around the poorest Englishman; that his person is sacred; that he has the unrestricted right of locomotion; that he can choose his employer; that if dissatisfied with his wages or his country, it depends on his own volition whether he will emigrate to another country; that the "world is all before him," and that even the monarch on his throne has not power to restrain him in this exercise of his own sovereign will and pleasure. Nay, more,--that if he elects to seek his fortune in America, either in the British provinces or the United States, facilities are furnished
by the British public to enable him to effectuate his intention. Such a man thus situated, Mr. Parker affirms, would on his knees beg to become the property of the southern slaveholder. Mr. Parker knows that the slave has no more power over himself than the ox or the sheep. That both the slave and his posterity are divested of all human rights,--that he is turned into a thing; that his flesh and bones belong to another, and are therefore liable to be lacerated or made an article of merchandise, at the pleasure of the owner. And yet the pious Mr. Parker solemnly declares, that the condition of such a creature is preferable to that of the free-born and free English laborer! Mr. Parker knew better. He knew he uttered a falsehood, a vile and wicked falsehood; and he chose the sacred desk, while engaged in the solemn discharge of the duties of his office as an ambassador of the God of heaven, for the place and time of publishing that wilful lie. He uttered and published that lie in entire disregard of the rights and sufferings of three millions of his fellow-men, for the mean and pitiful purpose of obtaining an approving smile from the southern slaveholder and his northern advocate. And this man prates about his detestation of slavery! Pshaw! From my soul I abhor and scorn the sanctimonious hypocrite, and the fool who believes and the knave who affects to believe him.
I also observe in the New York papers the report of the proceedings of a meeting at Tammany Hall on the 19th day of December, 1845, of democratic citizens burning with zeal for the extension and preservation of EQUAL RIGHTS, assembled for the purpose of expressing their views in relation to the amendments which ought to be made by the then anticipated Convention, to the Constitution
of the state of New York. At that meeting the following resolution was adopted:
"That the distinction established in the present constitution between the people of color, allowing such of them as have property to vote, and excluding others, is an anti-republican distinction, as the possession of property is not the test of intelligence and worth; and that as we are therefore driven to the alternative of excluding all or allowing all of these people to vote, we are most decidedly of the opinion that all should be excluded. We cannot regard them as belonging to the race to which the government of this country is committed; that there is a natural antipathy between the races, founded on strong natural and physical differences, forbidding social or political amalgamation; that the attempt to unite the races by constitutional or legal provisions, has signally failed in this state already; that a constitutional provision, not in accordance with public sentiment in this respect, would again fail in elevating the colored race to a practical participation in the government of this state, and that it is most unwise to adopt any constitutional provision which will not, in fact, be sustained by public sentiment, or to attempt to make such sentiment conform to a constitutional provision."
It appears to me that the history of the United States, for the last half century, renders the probability greater that the free states will become slaveholding, than that the slaveholding states will abolish slavery. From present indications it is pretty obvious, that if the free states continue to repudiate the institution of slavery, it will be from considerations growing out of the established doctrines of political economy, or in other words, from a calculation
of profit and loss, and not from a regard to principle, or to human rights.
During the Revolution, in the year 1777, John Jay, George Clinton, Robert R. Livingston, and others, the patriots of that day, formed a constitution for the state of New York, by which an equal right of suffrage was extended to all citizens, without regard to color. In 1821, that constitution was revised, and although the exercise of the right of suffrage by white citizens was greatly extended, it was much restricted as respects the blacks. While no property qualification was required of the white man, the colored citizen was not permitted to vote unless he was the owner of a freehold estate worth at least $250. At that time, as it has been for forty out of forty-eight years, the office of president was held by a slaveholder. A majority of the convention of 1821 were the political friends of the President, and that majority, in despite of an able and zealous opposition*
* There was but one dissentient, Chief-Justice Spencer.
from the political opponents of the President, adopted the clause to which I have referred.**
* There was but one dissentient, Chief-Justice Spencer.
** It ought to be mentioned that in 1821 there were many slaves in the state of New York, but that by a law passed in 1816, all were to be free on the fourth day of July, 1827. If by the provisions of the constitution the same right of suffrage had been granted to the black as to the white citizen, all who in 1827 should become free would the next day be entitled to vote for any officer of the government. In view of this, it was apprehended that the class of men thus suddenly emerging from slavery would be an unsafe depository of the elective franchise. Col. Young, who was a leading democratic member of the convention, avowed this as the principal ground on which he supported the restriction. Undoubtedly many other real friends of the rights of men, whether black or white, voted for the restriction for the same reason.--Editor.
** It ought to be mentioned that in 1821 there were many slaves in the state of New York, but that by a law passed in 1816, all were to be free on the fourth day of July, 1827. If by the provisions of the constitution the same right of suffrage had been granted to the black as to the white citizen, all who in 1827 should become free would the next day be entitled to vote for any officer of the government. In view of this, it was apprehended that the class of men thus suddenly emerging from slavery would be an unsafe depository of the elective franchise. Col. Young, who was a leading democratic member of the convention, avowed this as the principal ground on which he supported the restriction. Undoubtedly many other real friends of the rights of men, whether black or white, voted for the restriction for the same reason.--Editor.
If the object contemplated by the resolution I have
quoted should be carried into effect by the convention and people of New York, it will be another advance towards what the south most ardently desire, the degradation of the negro race in the free states. That the meeting at Tammany was induced to adopt the resolution with a view to afford a proof of their devotion to the slaveholding administration now in power, there can be no doubt. Indeed, this very resolution was indicated, by the government organ at Washington, as proper to be adopted as an evidence of the fealty of the faithful of the city of New York; and more especially, as a test of the obedience of those who participated in the drippings from the customhouse in that port. Yes, a government newspaper editor*
* Mr. Ritchie.
had the impudence to command the people of an independent state, as an evidence of their allegiance to the southern dynasty, to disfranchise forty thousand of their native-born citizens! To this mandate the above resolution was the humble response. I observe, too, that a Mr. Forney, said to have come from Philadelphia, but who may have been a confidential agent of the President, was in attendance, and harangued the meeting, and in other respects was very active in teaching the New York democrats what sort of a constitution they ought to have. It will be seen hereafter that those who are the most zealous, loud, and boisterous against negro suffrage, if they are not now participants of the pecuniary favors of the general government, will soon be rewarded by lucrative offices, which will be bestowed on them by the President. Which class of men are the most safe depositories of the power to elect law-makers, those who barter their votes and their influence with the national executive for lucrative appointments,
* Mr. Ritchie.
or that race of men who have the misfortune to have a black or darkened skin, who ask nothing, and expect nothing from the government but good laws and protection of their property, persons, and lives?
But, say the democrats of Tammany Hall, there is a difference between the two races, and therefore, although the negro race are natives of the state, though their industry contributes to the aggregate wealth of the country, though their services administer to the convenience and ease of the luxurious and wealthy, though they pay their proportion of the taxes of the country, though they are subject to its laws, and when invaded, shed their blood in its defence, we, the friends of equal rights, will be the governors, and they shall be the governed. True, there is a difference between the two races. The skin of the one race is white, and that of the other black. So among the Tammany democrats--I presume there may have been some ten men who had red hair, and all the rest flax-colored or black hair. What if the meeting had voted that every man who had red hair should be disfranchised, or that no Albino should exercise the right of suffrage? What would the democracy have said of such a vote?
But it is said that the negroes in the free states are a degraded class of men, and that they are not sufficiently enlightened to exercise judiciously the right of suffrage. That they are a degraded people I admit, but who caused their degradation? No man who claims any standing in society will deny that it is the duty of the whites to endeavor to elevate the character and moral standing of the negroes. Is depriving them of all political power, by robbing them of the right of suffrage, calculated to elevate their standing and character? Is it not rather fixing upon them the indelible stamp of degradation? Is it not taking
from them all human inducement to exert themselves to acquire knowledge, and a reputation for virtue and talents? Why, then, in a state claiming to be free,--why, I say, by the organic law, doom forty thousand people to political slavery? Are the negroes naturally inferior to the whites? Hear what Henry Clay says of a negro born and educated a slave:
"Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry Clay, of Ashland, for and in consideration of the fidelity, attachment, and services of Charles Dupey, (the son of Aaron, commonly called Charles, and Charlotte,) and my esteem and regard for him, do hereby liberate and emancipate the said Charles Dupey, from all obligation of service to me, or my representatives, investing him, as far as any act of mine can invest, with all the rights and privileges of a freeman.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal, this 9th day of December, in the year of our Lord, 1844.
"H. CLAY, [L. S.]
"Sealed and delivered in the presence of
"THOMAS H. CLAY."
The Hon. Abel P. Upshur, late Secretary of State, an amiable and excellent man, although a zealous advocate for slavery, has left on record the following opinion of one of that race, whom the Tammany champions for equal rights think constitutionally incapable and unfit to be intrusted with the right to vote at the elections:
"I emancipate and set free my servant David Rich, and direct my executors to give him one hundred dollars. I recommend him in the strongest manner to the respect,
esteem, and confidence of any community in which he may happen to live. He has been my slave for twenty-four years, during all which time he has been trusted to every extent and in every respect. My confidence in him has been unbounded: his relation to myself and family has been such as to afford him daily opportunities to deceive and injure us, and yet he has never been detected in any serious fault, nor even in an intentional breach of the decorums of his station. His intelligence is of a high order, his integrity above all suspicion, and his sense of right and propriety correct and even refined. I feel that he is justly entitled to carry this certificate from me in the new relations which he must now form. It is due to his long and most faithful services, and to the sincere and steady friendship which I bear him. In the uninterrupted and confidential intercourse of twenty-four years, I have never given nor had occasion to give him an unpleasant word. I know no man who has fewer faults or more excellences than he."
I cannot forbear to express my surprise and deep regret that so good a man as Judge Upshur unquestionably was, should have permitted himself to exert his influence, officially and personally, in favor of the annexation of Texas, for the avowed purpose of extending the power of holding in slavery, and sinking to the level of brutes, such men as DAVID RICH.
In closing these memorandums and desultory remarks, already extended far more than was originally intended, and in terminating the history of my life, I can only state that my fixed resolution is to end my days here, on the island of England--here, where castes on account of the complexion or the color of the skin are unknown--here, on a soil, which, the moment it is trodden by the slave
of Democratic America, the chains fall from him, and he is transformed, by the mighty power of "the genius of universal emancipation," from a THING to an intellectual being. * * * *
And yet I love "my own, my native land;" yet I recollect, with melancholy pleasure, her spacious bays, her extensive and fertile plains, her broad rivers, and her lofty and majestic mountains. Gladly would I exchange the fine views in the neighborhood of the old town of Warwick, for those presented by the valley of the Potomac; and even the solemn and august towers of this renowned Gothic castle, fail to interest my feelings when I think of the mansion-house of my early and venerable friend Col. Boyd. The sunny south is still dear to me. Nay, more,--the warm-hearted, generous, enthusiastic, and gallant southerner, notwithstanding all the persecutions and sufferings I have endured from southern citizens, still challenges my respect and admiration.
"O America! with all thy faults I love thee still."
But, aside from my love and affection for the country which gave me birth, I cannot but regard with deep and thrilling interest the experiment commenced by the patriots of the new world in 1776, which must decide the great question, whether man is capable of governing himself. This experiment is still being made, and enlightened and benevolent men in every part of the globe at this moment contemplate its result with an anxiety the most intense, mingled with gloomy and painful apprehensions. Conscious of this, I cannot suppress my own ardent aspirations for the continuance of the union of the people of that glorious country. But, alas! a dark and portentous cloud is gathering, from which, ere long, a tempest will burst on that heaven-favored land. In the midst of the
body politic, there is a foul and deadly canker which is corroding its vitals. In that great country, claiming to be the only free country on earth, man claims to be the owner of his fellow-man, and a more galling and inhuman system of slavery exists than ever did in any age or in any quarter of the world. It has been already shown, that the relation between master and slave is that of war--unmitigated and interminable--it may be an exterminating war. Yes, there are three millions of people--not, it is true, embodied together in martial order and drawn up in regular battalia, but who are to be found in the fields, in the workshops, and at the firesides of their enemies. The day will come--the dreadful day will come, (may a merciful God put far away that day,) when the rich rice and cotton fields of the south will be drenched with human gore, when the quiet retreats of the domestic circle will be stained with the blood of "wife, children, and friends,"--and when the gorgeous palaces which now adorn the southern plantations will be enveloped in flames. * * * * Emancipation by the peaceable and voluntary enactment of laws by the legislatures of the slaveholding states, is the only means of averting these evils.
And is there no hope that these means will be adopted? There is none, or at most very little, from the efforts or influence of the free states. They have no right to interfere with the domestic regulations of the other states. Slavery, by the national constitution, as it is construed, is guarded by impregnable barriers from attacks by the sister states. It is sustained by the ecclesiastical, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the north and west, as well as by the ill-founded but inveterate prejudices against color, of the less-informed but most numerous class of the people. There can be no hope of the slave
for liberation from the political power of the free states, so long as they continue to vest the patronage of the nation and the national executive power in the hands of slaveholders.*
* The discussions in Congress last winter on the WILMOT PROVISO, and the avowals made on that occasion by the representatives of the slaveholding states, it is believed, have induced a course of reflection among the citizens of the free states, which will cause those states to support as their next presidential candidate, a man who is opposed to the further extension of slavery. Should one of the two great parties support a candidate on the principle contained in the Wilmot proviso, such a party would carry with it the hearts of an immense majority of the people, and the result would prove that Mr. Melbourn is in an error when he affirms, or rather intimates, that the political power of the north and west never will be exerted against slavery.--Editor.
But may we not cherish the expectation, that in this enlightened age of the world, patriotic and benevolent men will rise up in these same slaveholding states, possessing so large a portion of virtue, love of justice, and moral courage, as to induce them to assert and defend the rights of man--to exhibit in bold relief the blighting effects of slavery, and to warn the slaveholder of his impending danger? I will not believe that the race of Jeffersons and Wythes has become extinct. Already has the noble-minded and self-devoted CASSIUS M. CLAY, at the hazard of his property and life, avowed himself the friend of universal emancipation.
* The discussions in Congress last winter on the WILMOT PROVISO, and the avowals made on that occasion by the representatives of the slaveholding states, it is believed, have induced a course of reflection among the citizens of the free states, which will cause those states to support as their next presidential candidate, a man who is opposed to the further extension of slavery. Should one of the two great parties support a candidate on the principle contained in the Wilmot proviso, such a party would carry with it the hearts of an immense majority of the people, and the result would prove that Mr. Melbourn is in an error when he affirms, or rather intimates, that the political power of the north and west never will be exerted against slavery.--Editor.
Oh! if some great and good man--some master-spirit of the south--some JOHN C. CALHOUN, could divest himself of the prejudices of education, and the influence of his sectional and interested friends, and, like the patriotic and self-devoted Cassius M. Clay of the west, bow to the genius of universal emancipation, and declare himself for the equal rights and dignity of man as man, and carry with him, as he unquestionably would, the hearts of the
true chivalry of the south--what a halo of glory would cluster around his brow--how undying, how imperishable would be his fame! If he who saved the life, or rescued from captivity, a single citizen of Rome, merited the laurel crown, what immortal honors would that man achieve, who should unbind the chains and open the prison doors of three millions of native Americans!