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Slavery in Illinois.

[From the Chicago Post.]

Are we to have slavery in Illinois? Is this state to be converted into a slave state, and is it to be Africanized? In the early settlement of Illinois, many families from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia came to the country, bringing with them their family servants. The ordinance of '87 prohibited slavery northwest of the Ohio river, yet necessity for "help" over-rode the law, and these negroes continued in bondage practically. A system of apprenticeship, another name for slavery, was introduced, and under this agreement slaves were brought hither from the eastern slave states and held. When the convention met in 1818, to form a constitution for the state, the issue was directly made whether Illinois should or should not be a slave state. The free state men carried the election, but their majority was not very great. The convention in framing the constitution, recognized the validity of the claim of the owners or masters of the negroes then held virtually as slaves, but technically as apprentices, to the labor and service of the negroes, and the supreme court, including Judge Trumbull, confirmed the title. Thus slavery continued to exist in the neighborhood of Kaskaskia until within a few years, and there may be even now some survivor of the institution in that locality.

In the wheel of national progress, the state is now brought once more to the consideration of a question which, forty years ago, caused considerable excitement. Shall we have negroes in this state as slaves or apprentices? Shall we introduce slavery into Illinois? The constitution of the state prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude. The laws of the state prohibit the introduction of negroes, free or slave, within its limits. Those laws are the result of a mandate of the constitution. If to introduce free negroes be a violation of the constitution and of the laws, what is the introduction of slaves? That is only a violation of the constitution and laws. Both propositions are, so far as the law is concerned, identical. No court can say that the one is in the least more obligatory upon the conscience and allegiance of the citizen than the other. If it be allowed to violate the one clause of the constitution, why should it be criminal to violate the other? If the door be opened to one violation, why will it not be to the other? Is there no danger that the violation of it in one instance will lead to its violation in the other? Judges elected in northern Illinois, where party feeling may justify the introduction of negro labor, may decide that the constitution shall yield to the exigencies of the case, and negro labor shall be permitted to come into their districts. But may not judges elected in other localities, where free negroes are detested and where slave labor would possibly be tolerated, decide that as the constitution was overridden in one particular to let the people of one section have cheap free negro labor, it will only be equalizing the blessings of free government to let persons who want slave labor have it as long as they need it. Where would be the crime in the one case that did not exist in the other?

The slaves who are arriving at Cairo are handed over by the authorities to such persons as will undertake to provide for, clothe and support them. For this, the negro is to labor as a compensation. It is true, the negro is technically free, but virtually, in consideration of the care and support rendered, is one "owing service and labor" to the person to whom he or she may be delivered by the military authority. This is slavery, in a mild form it is true, but nevertheless practically it is slavery. Suppose a citizen of Kentucky should move to Illinois; he is the owner of fifty slaves. Before leaving Kentucky he emancipates them all, they be indenture agree to serve him in Illinois for a term of years, or for life, they receiving a support and maintenance from him during that time, and possibly a regular weekly or monthly allowance in money. Upon these terms the Kentuckian moves into Illinois. The prohibition of negro immigration having been set aside as no longer obligatory, why should this Kentuckian be considered as violating any law, notwithstanding the fact that he has brought fifty negroes, who are to all intents and purposes slaves, into the state, and held them? Where is the legal distinction between the two cases of bondage? In both cases the negro assumes the obligation to labor for a compensation. While that compensation is rendered is not the negro bound to render the service and labor? Will not the courts, unless they pronounce the presence of the negro here at all to be illegal, and require his departure, be forced to admit and require the negro to render the service and labor for which he has been compensated? How can the courts, once admitting the negro's residence to be legal, withhold from him judgements for compensation for labor, or refuse judgments against him for service and labor in compensation for support, &c., rendered him? The courts must enforce the contracts between the parties. Hence, the failure or refusal of the courts to enforce and maintain the constitutional provision against negro immigration involves the necessity for recognizing and sustaining slavery in a modified, but not the less practical form in the state. If the northern part of the state shall stock its farms, towns, villages and cities with free negro labor, brought here in direct violation of the constitution, and in as direct violation of the often expressed wishes of the people of the middle and lower parts of the state, nothing is more certain than that those large agricultural regions will be filled by slave apprentices hired from Kentucky and Missouri. In this way the free state of Illinois will become practically a slave state. We suppose that nothing is more certain than that any effort to seize one of these free negroes brought here from Cairo, and to put him in jail preparatory to his expulsion from the state, would lead to disturbance, and a rescue. Is it to be supposed that any effort to carry off the slave apprentice of a farmer in the southern part of this state by judicial process would not meet with a like resistance? How can men who openly and boastingly violate the constitution in one end of the state, expect and insist that the people in the other end shall obey and enforce it?

We may take it for granted then that the old apprenticeship system, a mere name adopted to cover up the practical slavery embodied in it, is to be revived in this state, and that henceforth American, German and Irish laborers are to be considered as mere "mudsills" of society. White patricians, negro servants; those white men and women who have to work for a living are to be social outcast! Is this the future that is opening for Illinois? Is the labor of the state to be Africanized? Are the white men and women whose intelligence and toil have made Illinois the empire state of the Mississippi valley, to be reduced, because they labor, to the social degradation of the negro? Is that the verdict of a free people upon free white labor? Let those who are giving aid and encouragement to the immigration hither of African labor, pause and consider the consequences. The one violation of the constitution invites the other. So soon as we have slavery in one form, we will have it in every possible form. Men once accustomed to the luxury of servile labor, will never give it up, and the introduction of this cheap African labor is the inevitable forerunner of slavery as a permanent institution of the state.