PROCEEDINGS of a Convention of Delegates favorable to the immediate abolition of Slavery in the United States, assembled from various parts of the state of Illinois, at Upper Alton, in the county of Madison, on Thursday, the 26th day of October, 1837.
At 2 o'clock, P. M. the Convention was called to order by Rev. E. P. LOVEJOY; and on his motion, Rev. Dr. BLACKBURN, of Carlinville, was chosen Chairman, pro tem., and Rev. F. W. GRAVES, of Alton, was chosen Secretary pro tem.
In consequence of the intrusion of a number of disorderly persons, the Convention did not duly organize during the afternoon.
Adjourned to Friday morning at 9 o'clock.
Friday Morning, 9 o' Clock
Convention assembled. On motion, Rev. Dr. BLACKBURN was called to the chair.
Meeting opened with prayer by the Chairman. The following original call of the Convention was then read, and declared to be the principle on which this Convention will now organize:
The present aspect of the slavery question in this country, and especially in this state, is of commanding interest to us all. No question is, at the present time, exerting so strong an influence upon the public mind as this. The whole land is agitated by it. We cannot, nor would we remain indifferent spectators in the midst of developements so vitally interesting to us all, as those which are daily taking place in relation to the system of American slavery.
The undersigned would, therefore, respectfully call a meeting of the friends of the slave and of free discussion in the state of Illinois, to meet in Convention at Upper Alton, on the last Thursday of October. It is intended that this Convention should consist of all those in the state who believe that the system of American slavery is sinful and ought to be immediately abandoned, however diversified may be their views in other respects. It is desirable that the opponents in this state of domestic slavery--all who ardently long and pray to witness its immediate abolition, should co-operate together in their efforts to accomplish it. We therefore hope that all such will make it a point of duty to attend the Convention, not thereby feeling that they are
4pledged to any particular course of action, but that they may receive as well as impart the benefit of mutual counsel and advice.
It is earnestly to be hoped that there will be a full attendance at the Convention. Let all who feel deeply interested in this cause, not only attend themselves, but stir up their neighbors to attend also. And let each one remember that this call cannot be repeated. But for the destruction of the "Observer" press it would have been circulated some time since. It is hoped, that it will have time to circulate in season to bring together a large number of our friends from all parts of the state.
Peter R. Borien
John R. George
J. B. Brown
J. T. Holmes
J. R. Beston
Edward L. Turner
Joseph Craig, jr.
Alvin T. Smith
Levi B. Allen
H. L. Montandon
Henry C. Pitkin
E. B. Kimball
Henry B. Hoffman
John M. Smith
H. W. Reynolds
J. R. Stanton
Nehemiah H. Long
H. H. May.
C. W. Gilbert
W. P. Hamlin
Elisha H. King
Wm. S. Gale
Ephraim P. Nail
H. P. Lyman
O. L. Stone
A. S. Lyman
Waverly, Morgan co.
Dr. Isaac H. Brown
J. W. Buchanan
C. W. Hunter.
P. B. Whipple
W. L. Chappell
Elijah P. Lovejoy
S. E. Moore
J. S. Clark
Rev. H. Loomis
T. B. Hurlbut
F. W. Graves
Pleasant Grove, Tazewell county.
Washington, Tazewell county.
James P. Scott
F. R. Whipple
Sand Prairie, Tazewell county.
Samuel C. Woodrow
5James M. Flack
R. P. Vance
John E. Morey
A. C. Root
Fairfield, Adams co.
J. B. Chittenden
W. H. Hubbard
J. W. Cook
Anson M. Hubbard
Chatham, Sangamon co.
L. N. Ransom
H. T. White
A. S. Castler
W. E. Castler
Wm. E. Guilford, jr.
Geo. W. Gale
W. M. Stuart
S. D. Laughlin
J. N. Laughlin
James G. Dunlavy
Stephen D. Willis
E. B. Hawley
R. P. Abel
W. M. Cowgill
Isaac Bancroft, jr.
J. C. Bancroft
J. B. Watson
C. B. Francis
J. G. Rawson
Edmund R. Wiley
Geo. N. Kendall
E. W. Thayer
B. B. More
H. D. Chipman
Pekin, Tazewell co.
Monmouth, Warren co.
George H. Wright
Thomas W. Melendy
Maro M. L. Reed
J. G. Edwards
C. B. Blood
R. W. Patterson
D. D. Nelson
W. T. Mills
A. B. Hitchcock
J. S. Graves
R. S. Kendall
R. M. Pearson
A. W. Estabrook
Thomas C. Kenworthy
Wm. S. Burnett
I hope in view of the fact, that the "Observer" press has been three times destroyed in Alton, in the space of little more than one year, it will not be deemed out of place, for me, in this special manner, to call upon the friends of law, of order, of equal rights, and of free discussion to rally at the proposed Convention in numbers and with a zeal corresponding to the urgency of the crisis. Our dearest rights are at stake--rights, which as American citizens ought to be dearer to us than our lives. Take away the right of Free discussion--the right under the laws, freely to utter and publish such sentiments as duty to God and the fulfilment of a good conscience may require, and we have nothing left to struggle for. Come up then, ye friends of God and man! come up to the rescue, and let it be known whether the spirit of freedom yet presides over the destinies of Illinois, or whether the "dark spirit
6of slavery has so far already diffused itself through our community, as that the discussion of the inalienable rights of man can no longer be tolerated.
ELIJAH P. LOVEJOY.
Alton, September 27, 1837.
The chair then stated that all gentlemen present who hold the doctrines, and are friendly to the objects specified in the above call, are properly members of this Convention. And he invited all such as could in good faith subscribe to those doctrines, to enroll their names, and take their seats accordingly.
Whereupon the following names were reported and enrolled:
JO DAVIESS COUNTY.
LA SALLE COUNTY.
C. C. Elliot.
John J. Miter
Moses Porter, jr.
C. L. Watson
David Nelson, jr.
W. P. Doe
E. M. Leonard
H. H. Snow
A. B. Hitchcock
E. B. Turner
L. N. Ranson
Dr. John Lyman
John S. Morrill
J. M. Buchanan
R. J. Atwell
W. E. Vanmeter
E. P. Lovejoy
F. W. Graves
T. B. Hurlbut
C. W. Hunter
D. E. Manton
F. H. Williams
L. B. Page
John S. Clark
S. E. Moore
J. A. Willard
P. B. Whipple
W. L. Chappell
The following are the names of individuals from Alton and vicinity: (some of them professing to adopt the "principles" of the original call, and all of them avowing themselves "the friends of free discussion,") who came into the Convention
7and were duly enrolled as members by the clerk; while, as the result showed, their object was very foreign to the purposes of the original signers to the call for an Anti-Slavery Convention.
J. C. Bruner
J. A. Langdon
REV. JOHN HOGAN
Hon. Cyrus Edwards
B. Clifford, jr.
L. J. Clawson
S. C. Pierce
B. C. Hair
J. M. Jameson
Dr. J. A. Halderman
A. R. Bissell
E. W. Dill
R. F. Morrill
J. H. Wilson
E. M. Hagart
S. W. Robbins
E. F. Cartley
L. S. Wells
R. P. Marcy
B. B. Barker
U. F. Linder
J. A. Townsend
W. L. Sloss
J. W. Collet
J. D. Burns
W. B. Little
J. G. Catlin
Dr. T. M. Hope
J. W. Buckner
H. D. Monson
C. A. Moore
S. C. Simmons
J. J. Thornwell
H. H. Blodson
S. W. Conley
S. L. Miller
B. W. Akin
O. M. Adams
W. M. Bresner
Geo. M. Smith
J. B. Randle
S. S. Summers
H. P. Randle
J. J. Bowers
C. A. Moore
H. S. Richardson
F. B. Kellogg
C. C. Wooldridge
Resolved, That we now proceed to elect officers for the Convention.
Whereupon, Rev. Gideon Blackburn, D. D. and Dr. T. M. Hope, were put in nomination for the Presidency.
Rev. Dr. Blackburn received 73, and Dr. Hope 52. Dr. Blackburn was accordingly declared duly elected President.
F. W. Graves and Wm. Carr,
A communication was then read by the President, as follows:
" To the Chairman of the Convention,
SIR,--When application was made to us as Trustees of the Presbyterian Church, for permission to hold the Convention in the house, our
8understanding was that the deliberations of that body, as well as the discussions of the same, were to be free to all orderly well disposed persons' who were opposed to slavery, and who were willing to be governed by proper rules and regulations in debate. If therefore the discussions of your body should be otherwise, we protest against the house being used for a one sided discussion."
L. P. STRATTON.
On motion, of Col. Botkin,
Resolved, That this Convention adopt the principle of the above communication as their own, and that the paper be recorded and published with the proceedings of this Convention.
On motion of U. F. Linder,
Resolved, That this Convention shall be governed in its proceedings by the rules and principles contained in "Jefferson's Manuel."
Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed by the chair, to report business for the use of this Convention. Whereupon, Messrs, E. Beecher, U. F. Linder and A. Turner, were appointed that committee.
On motion, adjourned till 2 o'clock, P. M.
FRIDAY, 2 o'clock, P. M.
Convention re-assembled. A majority of the committee presented a report, which was read. The minority, U. F. Linder, also reported resolutions, which were read and adopted for discussion, as follows:
Resolved, That in the opinion of this Convention, Congress has no power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia.
Resolved, That in our opinion, domestic slavery, as it exists in these United States, is sanctioned by the laws and constitutions thereof; that the slaves are private property, and that, for the Legislature of any State, or the Congress of the United States, to emancipate and set them free, without the consent of the owner and making him a just compensation thereof, would be a violation of the Constitution of the United States, and ought to be discountenanced.
Resolved, That one State has no right to interfere with the municipal regulations or institutions of another, unless they endanger the existence of her own.
Resolved, That in our opinion, the immediate abolition of slavery in the United States by Legislative enactment, would lead to a civil war between the slave and non-slaveholding States, and to dissolution and ultimately the destruction of our happy form of government.
Resolved, That we cannot assent to the doctrine which confers upon the emancipated negro all the rights, privileges, and franchises which are now enjoyed by each and every free white citizen of these United States.
Resolved, That in our opinion, Congress has no right to abolish slavery in any one of the United States, without a manifest usurpation of power never conferred by the Constitution, but expressly prohibited thereby.
Resolved, That we will use all lawful means to exterminate slavery within the United States, but we will never take any step to accomplish the said object in contravention of the laws and constitutions, or which are inconsistent with our national and individual security and rights.
Resolved, That the existence of slavery in the States is a political evil, and not chargeable to the present generation.
Resolved, That every effort to effect the emancipation of the slave should be made with all due decorum and respect for the feelings and safety of our slaveholding brethren, and that contrary course ought to be discountenanced by an intelligent community.
Resolved, That the report of the committee be accepted, and that the report of U. F. Linder, the minority be taken up for discussion.
On motion the house resolved itself into a committee of the whole, E. Walcott in the Chair, on the second resolution, which having been discussed was reported back, and the whole report adopted as the sense of the Convention.
The Convention then adjourned sine die.
GIDEON BLACKBURN, Pres't.
F. W. GRAVES,
WM. CARR, Secretaries
UPPER ALTON, Oct. 28, 1837.
In consequence of the breaking up of the Convention by the disorderly proceedings detailed above, the following individuals from various parts of the State, who in answer to the call, assembled for the purpose of discussing the subject of slavery, and after deliberation, if deemed expedient to form a State Anti-Slavery Society, met at the house of Rev. T. B. Hurlbut, in Upper Alton, and proceeded to organize by calling Rev. Asa Turner to the chair, and appointing Rev. Lucian Farnum and Dr. R. E. W. Adams, Secretaries.
The following gentlemen reported their names and were enrolled as members of the Convention,
[We omit publishing their names here, as they are the same, (with a few exceptions of gentlemen who were obliged to return home) as the preceding list of the proper members of the Convention. The number of delegates present at this meeting was seventy five--representing nearly all parts of the State.]
Resolved, That F. W. Graves and William Kirby be a committee to prepare business for the action of this Convention.
The committee reported a preamble and Constitution, for the formation of a State Anti-Slavery Society.
Voted to accept the report of the Committee.
[It may be proper to remark here, that the formation of a Society was a thing not at all resolved upon by the Convention until the violent proceedings of the mob opened every eye to see that some organized, systematic effort, was absolutely necessary to save our own liberties from the ruthless hands of unprincipled men. Thus an overruling providence made the wrath of man to praise him.]
On motion, Voted to adjourn till 2 o'clock.
SATURDAY, 2 o'clock, P. M.
The Convention reassembled.
President Beecher then introduced a declaration of sentiments to be prefixed to the preamble and constitution, which was read, and on motion, was committed to a select committee, consisting of W. Kirby, E. P. Lovejoy, and E. Beecher to report as soon as practicable.
Resolved, That the preamble to the Constitution be adopted.
President Beecher then offered the following resolutions which were unanimously adopted as the sense of the Convention.
1. Resolved, That we adopt as the opinions of this Convention, the following principles of civil and religious liberty as expressed in the Constitution of this State.
2. Resolved, "That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights; among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, and of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
3. Resolved, That no human authority can in any case whatever control or interfere with the rights of conscience.
4. Resolved, That no freeman shall be imprisoned or disseized of his freehold, liberties or privileges, or outlawed or exiled, or in any manner deprived of his life, liberty or property, but by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land.
5. Resolved, That every person within this State ought to find a certain remedy in the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive in his person, property or character; he ought to obtain right and justice freely and without being obliged to purchase it, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay, conformably to the laws.
6. Resolved, That the printing presses shall be free to every person who undertakes to examine the proceedings of the general assembly or of any branch of government; and no law shall ever be made to restrain the right thereof. The communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the invaluable rights of man, and every citizen may freely speak, write and print on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty."
7. Resolved, That all these fundamental principles, so essential to the
11welfare of society, and maintained by our pious ancestors on both continents, by the sacrifice of reputation, property, and life have been violated in the recent destruction of three printing presses and other property of the Alton Observer, and in the insults and violence offered to the person of its Editor.
8. Resolved, That as the true principles of civil and religious liberty, were first promulgated by those men, by whom the shackles of civil and ecclesiastical despotism were broken, and kept alive by their descendants in their subsequent contests with tyranny, so it is especially the duty of all their descendants in this hour of trial to exhibit, not the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind, in maintaining inviolate those principles, as we regard our own dearest rights, the rights, liberties and eternal welfare of our children, the salvation of our country and of the world.
9. Resolved, That to shrink from maintaining these rights, because the cause advocated is unpopular, or because any do not believe all the principles advocated, is virtually to abandon the freedom of the press forever, for never will it be assaulted except when it attempts to maintain doctrines which some, and it may be a large portion of the community disapprove, and oppose. It is also to admit that if the majority of the people are corrupt on any subject whatever, a mob shall have the power to arrest all efforts to enlighten and reform them by means of the press.
10. Resolved, That if in any publication, any errors are advanced, the proper mode to remove them, is by appropriate reasoning, and moral influence, and if any licentiousness of the press is charged, the proper mode of correcting it is by a regular trial before a civil tribunal.
Resolved, That the Constitution as presented by the committee, with some amendments be adopted as the Constitution of the Illinois State Anti-Slavery Society.
Resolved, That the declaration of sentiment as offered by Mr. Beecher, with some slight alterations be adopted and prefixed to the preamble and Constitution.
Resolved, That the cause of human right, the liberty of speech and of the press imperatively demands that the press of the Alton Observer be re-established at Alton, with its present Editor. And with the aid of our friends at Alton and elsewhere, and by the help of Almighty God, we will take such measures as shall secure its re-establishment and safety.
Resolved, That the Constitution be circulated for signatures; which having been subscribed by fifty-five individuals.
The Convention adjourned sine die.
The Illinois State Anti-Slavery Society being thus duly organized, the chairman and Secretaries of the Convention continuing to act,
Resolved, That Messrs. Porter, Graves, Lovejoy, Russell and Grosvenor be a committee to nominate officers of the Society for the ensuing year.
The committee of nomination reported the following list of officers, which report was adopted, and the officers were declared duly elected.
ELIHU WOLCOTT, of Jacksonville.
Hubbell Loomis, H. H. Snow, Thomas Powell, Thomas Galt, and Aaron Russell.
Board of Managers.--George Kimball, C. W. Hunter, James Mansfield, J. S. Clark, J. A. Willard, Rufus Brown, Willard Keys, J. T. Holms, Asa Turner, R. Eells, Ezra Fisher, and Wm. Kirby.
Executive Committee.--E. P. Lovejoy, T. B. Hurlbut, H. Loomis, C. W. Hunter, J. A. Willard.
E. P. Lovejoy, Corresponding Secretary.
T. B. Hurlbut, Recording Secretary.
P. B. Whipple, Treasurer.
S. E. Moore, Auditor.
Resolved, That we entertain the most fraternal feelings towards the American Anti-Slavery Society, and all other associations whose object is to promote the sacred cause of civil and religious liberty throughout the world, and we engage to co-operate with them in all appropriate ways for the attainment of this great and desirable end.
Adjourned till 7 o'clock, P. M.
SATURDAY EVENING, 7 o'clock
Society met according to adjournment.
In the absence of the President, Judge Snow, one of the Vice Presidents took the chair.
Meeting opened with prayer.
Resolved, That Mr. Beecher be a committee to propose topics or discussion at the next annual meeting of the Society.
Mr. Beecher made the following report which was adopted--and ordered to be printed with the minutes.
1. A compendious view of the principles and measures on which the abolition of slavery depends.
2. An investigation of the doctrines of the Bible, on the subject of slavery.
3. An investigation of the relation of the slave-holding and non-slaveholding States to each other on the subject of slavery.
4. An investigation of the duties of the national government as it regards slavery in those portions of the nation under their control, and as it regards the domestic slave trade.
5. An investigation of what is involved in a right spirit, and judicious use of language on the subject of the abolition of slavery.
6. An exhibition of the relation of the system of slavery
13to the cause of civil and religious liberty throughout the world.
7. On the best mode of uniting all Christians in action on the subject of slavery.
8. On the alleged tendency of Anti-Slavery movement to divide the church and the nation.
9. On the relations of slavery to the conversion of the world.
10. On the laws of the free states in relation to people of color.
11. Brief answers of popular objections to efforts to effect the abolition of slavery.
12. On the relation of the abolition of slavery to the pecuniary interests of the community.
Resolved, That the Executive Committee be, and they are hereby instructed to assign the several subjects as above reported, or such of them as they may deem proper, to special committees, whose duty it shall be to present written reports on the same at the next annual meeting of the Society.
Resolved, That when this Society adjourn it will adjourn to meet at Peoria on Tuesday, the first day of October next at 2 o'clock, P. M.
Resolved, That Messrs. E. Wolcott, E. Beecher and W. Carter be a committee to prepare an address to the citizens of the state on the subject of Slavery, freedom of speech, of the press, &c.
Resolved, That a paper be now circulated for the purpose of securing pledges for funds to be forthcoming at the call of the Executive Committee, to be expended by them in promoting the objects of the Society as they shall judge proper.
Pledges and funds were raised to the amount of nearly $600.
After giving thanks for the protection of a kind Providence, and for the harmony and kind feelings which had prevailed in our deliberations, adjourned.
H. H. SNOW, Moderator.
T. B. HURLBUT, Secretary.
Declaration of Sentiments.
Having organized ourselves into an Anti-Slavery Society, we respectfully lay before the public the following statement of our views:
1. As to the foundation of human rights.
2. As to the relations of all just legislation to those rights.
3. As it regards the nature and character of the system of American Slavery.
4. As it regards its removal.
5. As it regards the right of exercising moral Influence on the subject.
I. As to the foundation of human rights.
1. That it is obviously the right and the duty of every intelligent being to live for the great end for which he was made, and in accordance with the laws of his nature, and that it is the will of God that he should do the same.
2. That inasmuch as God has given to man an immortal soul, a moral nature, intellect, the social affections, and the power of choice; and has rendered him accountable to himself for all his actions; and whereas it is the obvious duty and end of such a being to find his happiness in knowing, loving, and obeying God, and in promoting the highest good of his fellow men, therefore every human being has an inalienable right to live for this end, and to use all his powers both of body and of mind, and also all that he may justly acquire by their use, or receive from others in the discharge of that duty, and the attainment of that end, and that on this grand principle is grounded the whole doctrine of inalienable rights.
3. That inasmuch as all men are alike in the possession of that nature and those faculties on which these rights are founded; therefore they are all, equally and without distinction, in the possession of these rights, and that until the nature of man itself can be alienated, it is utterly beyond the power of any human being, or civil society, to alienate those rights which flow therefrom.
4. In accordance with these obvious principles we understand the statements of our national declaration of independence, that all men are created free and equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and also the declaration of the constitution of our own State that all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights. We regard them as equal IN FUNDAMENTAL AND INALIENABLE RIGHTS, inasmuch as they are entirely alike in the possession of a common nature from which those rights are derived.
5. The possession of these rights does not involve any visionary or disorganizing scheme of an actual equality in talents, wealth, station, civil power, or the enjoyments or possessions of life, but it does imply,
(1.) The right to be recognized and treated by all, and at all times, as an intelligent, rational, moral, accountable, and immortal being,--in other words, as a man.
(2.) The right of knowledge in all matters essential to duty and happiness.
(3.) The rights of conscience and of speech.
(4.) The right of forming and enjoying all those social
15relations which are founded in the nature of man, and essential to his welfare and happiness.
(5.) The right of personal chastity.
(6.) The right to possess the avails of his own corporeal and intellectual powers, and whatever may be lawfully given them by others.
(7.) The right of protection against personal injury, or the loss of life.
(8.) The right of being esteemed and treated in society, and of enjoying its advantages according to their intellectual and moral worth.
6. In accordance with these views, we understand our national declaration of independence, when it enumerates among inalienable rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--and also the more full enumeration of the constitution of our own State, viz: The right of enjoying and defending life, and liberty, and of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
II. On the relation of all legislation to these rights, we believe and affirm,
1. That all just legislation is designed to promote the highest good of the whole community.
2. The highest good of the community can never require or be promoted by the sacrifice of any of the inalienable rights of any of the individuals who compose it; on the other hand it can be maintained and promoted only by the full recognition and entire protection of those rights--therefore
3. It ought to be the great end of all systems of legislation whatever, to aid each individual member of society to gain the great end of his being, in accordance with the laws of his nature, and to maintain and defend those rights which are essential to enable him so to do; and all systems by which this is not done, and by which the habitual violation of the inalienable rights of man is allowed, sanctioned, and defended, are radically and fundamentally unjust, and at war with the word and the will of God.
III. As it regards the nature and character of American Slavery; we believe and affirm,
1. That at one blow it annihilates and destroys the very foundation of all rights, by refusing to acknowledge the slave as a man, that is, a rational, moral and accountable being, made to act forever under the government of God, and responsible to him for the discharge of all his duties to God, and to man, and by regarding him as a mere laboring animal, a mere chattel, an article of merchandize, an item in his master's wealth.
That it is the very essence and definition of Slavery, that the slaves are considered in law, not as men, but as things, as goods and chattels, and that all their legislation is based on this assumption, no man who values his reputation for the smallest item of knowledge on the subject, dares to deny.-- By evidence most overwhelming in laws and judicial decisions in all our courts, it is too clearly proved to admit of denial.
2. With this destruction of the very foundation of right, the several rights which flow from it are dissipated and destroyed, as, the rights of knowledge, of conscience, of marriage, and family, of chastity, of property, of reputation, and influence, and of protection against personal injury.
(1.) The law does not admit a slave's right to know any thing about any subject, and especially about the great end of his existence, and his duties to God and to man. To a certain extent the master may teach him if he will; but if he chooses not to do it, and so far as possible to keep the slaves in utter ignorance of all things, there is in the law no redress, of course.
(2.) The law does not allow to the slave any rights of conscience. He cannot worship God as will; and where, and when, and how he will; and if his master chooses to prevent any external worship at all, there is to him, in the law, no redress.
(3.) Since the slave is thus wronged by the laws, it will of course seem dangerous to the community that he should learn enough to know and feel that he is thus wronged; and hence the origin of numerous laws designed to prevent any one from teaching him, or him from learning any thing which the community, or his master, is not willing that he should know. And hence the whole tendency of the system is, to keep the slaves in the grossest ignorance and moral degradation.
(4.) The slave code gives the slave no protection in the relations of social life. The family state is the fundamental element of human society. God ordained marriage, that parents might train up their children for Heaven. To do this, the marriage tie ought to be sacred and indissoluble, and the children ought to be so subject to the control of their parents, that no human power can prevent them from training them for God. For the preservation of all these rights so essential in order to gain the great ends of human existence, the slave code makes no provision. The master may abstain from violating them if he pleases; but if not, if he pleases to violate them all, the slave has no redress.
17(5) God has enjoined personal chastity on all, and the preservation of it is alike essential to social welfare and individual dignity and elevation of character. Against the violation of this most precious right, dearer to the sensitive female than life itself, the law makes no provision. The master, or his sons, or his agents, may regard it if the will, but if not, there is in the law no redress.
(6.) God has decided that compensation is due to all men for their labor, and it is an undeniable dictate of equity that the price of labor should be fixed by mutual agreement.-- This right the slave code not only does not protect, but prostrates at a blow. The slave it regards as not his own, and of course as incapable of contracting with his master. Nor can he have wages for nothing that he has, is, or can be, in law, his own.
(7.) The law does not defend the slave against personal abuse. It professes, indeed, to guard against excessive punishment, but by denying to the slave all power to prosecute or testify, it renders all such nominal protection entirely vain; and the slave is exposed to numberless cruelties and indignities against which he has no redress. His master may treat him kindly if he will; but if not, there is in the law no redress, and so facts show.
3. The fact that all masters do not do all the evil that the system allows, and that some are kind and humane, is no relief to the character of the system. If all the wrong that it authorizes is not done, it is solely because some masters are better than the system.
4. The evils that take place under the system are not abuses of it, but its true and legitimate results. The ignorance and degradation, the violation of all social ties, the violence done to female chastity, the defrauding the laborer of his just reward, and the cruelties of chains and stripes are the true and natural fruits of the system, and all flow from the radical sin of disregarding the immortal nature of man, and making him by law a mere article of merchandize, a mere instrument of another's will, a thing to be bought and sold; and in law he is, and can be known, as nothing else,
5. This system is a fundamental subversion of the law of God, "Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself;" is at all times and in all circumstances sinful, to a degree unspeakable and inconceivable; and ought to be utterly and forever abolished.
IV. Removal of Slavery.
1. Of the system itself.
2. Of individuals from its power whilst the system remains unrepealed.
Of the system itself.
On this point we hold,
(1.) That the communities who made and who sustain the System, have the power, and are bound to abolish it.
(2.) That to continue such a system in order that under its influence the slaves may be gradually prepared for freedom is ridiculous, hopeless, and absurd, for the system has no tendencies but to unfit for freedom and to degrade.
(3.) That to suppose that the continuance of such a system, even for a day, is necessary to the safety or welfare of the master, is to assume in direct violation of the word, and in entire disregard of the providence of God, that it is ever more safe to do wrong than to do right. On the other hand;
(4.) It is obvious alike from reason, the word of God, and accumulated experience, that to abolish the system at once, and to replace it by a wise and equitable system of legislation, in which the slave should be restored to his rank and his rights as a man and an immortal being; a system adapted alike to defend the community against vagrancy and idleness, and to enlighten, elevate, employ, and protect the emancipated, is reasonable, practicable, safe, and a duty.
2. The removal of individuals from its power whilst the system remains unrepealed.
On this point we maintain as follows:
(l.)The evils which slaves encounter are two-fold, actual disregard of their rights in being treated as property, and not as men, and liability to it by law at all times.
(2.) The treatment of slaves as property and not as men, is at all times a sin, and ought to be renounced at once.
(3.) Though this should be done, yet it is not enough till the liability to such treatment is removed by a delivery from the whole power of the slave laws--through entire emancipation. For it is not enough that the slaves' rights are recognized because the master pleases; they ought at once to be rendered sure to him by law, so as to be independent of the pleasure of any man.
(4.) The plea that it may be right to retain the legal power
19to use a slave as property, if only so much of it is used as is for the slaves' good, is fallacious; for the same good could be done to them as free laborers, or in the legal relation of guardian and ward: and again, the evil of being under such a system of law, and exposed to all its possible consequences by a change of circumstances or death of the master, is greater, and we should feel it so in our own case, than all the good that is likely to be done by the use of the power; moreover, the master has no right, on his own judgment of what is for the slave's good, to assume the responsibilty of keeping him against his will under such a system of law.
(5.) As the legal emancipation of a slave requires the joint action of two parties, the individual slaveholder, and the community by whom the system was made and is upheld, so in every case where the legal relation is voluntarily and deliberately continued, both parties are guilty of the sin of keeping a human being under a system essentially oppressive, unjust, and ruinous.
But whenever the individual owner is desirous of freeing his slaves, by dissolving the legal relation between him and them, and does all that in him lies to secure that result; if, notwithstanding the community by withholding their concurrence, refuse to declare his act legal, and regard and treat the slaves as still under the slave system, then, though there is still guilt involved in the continuance of the legal relation, it is the guilt of the community who refuse to do their duty, and not of the individual who is desirous to do his; provided however, that he does his whole duty to secure the repeal of laws so tyrannical and unjust, and treats his slaves, not as property, but as men.
It is not, however, to be admitted that the mere fact that in existing circumstances the relation cannot he dissolved, is an excuse; provided that by any efforts, or sacrifices, or removal to another community, the circumstances of the master or of the slave, can be so changed that it can be done. In such cases, in order to show our abhorrence of the system, and from a high sense of duty, all such efforts and sacrifices ought to be made. In order that full justice may be done to the slave, and all, even seeming countenance of a system so iniquitous may be withdrawn, and all contact or connexion with it may cease.
V. On using moral influence on the subject.
1. It is the revealed purpose of the Most High to unite the human race in a holy and happy brotherhood of nations by the power of his gospel, and to bestow upon them the full enjoyment of the true principles of civil and religious liberty; and hence it is undeniably the duty of the present age to seek to unite the wise and the good of all nations upon these principles.
2. The existence of so flagrant a system of wrong on a scale so great, and in a position so prominent, tends to paralyze the public feeling of the globe, and is a deep injury to humanity, and to the welfare of the world.
3. In our own country especially, is there imminent danger of a moral paralysis on these topics, as a healthy tone of moral feeling cannot but be painful to the slave holding States; and we are strongly tempted by social, pecuniary and political influences, to lay aside all healthy energy of soul.
4. Moreover, the existence of the system creates a strong motive to degrade free colored persons at the south, and a tendency to sink them as a class, wherever known; the injurious and oppressive effects of which are seen in corrupt public sentiment and unjust legislation throughout our land.
5. In consequence of our present political relations, the people of the free States are, or may be called on to perform duties of the most painful kind.
6. That the system is not for the true interests of the slave States, but tends to their ruin. Moreover, it tends to create opposing interests and to dissolve the Union.
7. We hold moreover, that any course of policy which the principles of freedom demand ought to prevail, and that any course of policy which slavery demands ought to be given up, inasmuch as one is founded on eternal and immutable right, and the other on a flagrant violation of the same. In order to preserve the Union, it is the duty of the south to give up slavery, but not of the north to relinquish the principles of freedom.
8. In view of the preceding facts, we affirm, that the continuance of the system of slavery is injurious not only to the communities in which it exists, but to the free States, to the Union, and to the cause of freedom throughout the world; and that therefore, the citizens of the free States have a right from a regard to their own welfare and that of the Union to endeavor, by the highest possible influence of argument, persuasion, and entreaty to induce those who have the power to abolish the system; and that a supreme regard to the general good renders it their duty to do the same.
9. We also hold that it is a duty to discuss this subject
21with great courage, fidelity, and plainness of speech, and with the earnestness which the magnitude of the interests involved requires. Yet in all cases we are bound to do it in kindness and in love; and to avoid all use of language that tends needlessly to irritate or offend.
10. We are bound also to reject all sentiments that may endanger the safety of slave-holding communities, or excite the slaves to insurrection of violence. We therefore, distinctly declare that we do not hold the doctrine that because the laws of slavery are wrong, therefore, the slaves are under no obligation to obey their masters from the fear of God. But we affirm, that it is their duty to obey all commands, not involving a violation of the will of God, until by proper authority they are emancipated, or the slave laws are repealed.
11. Whilst we hold it to be our duty to use all appropriate means to remove so great an evil, our main dependence shall be on prayer and the influences of the Spirit of God.
Whereas, the Most High God "hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth," and hath commanded them to love their neighbors as themselves; and whereas, our national existence is based upon this principle, as recognized in the declaration of independence, that "all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" and whereas, after the lapse of more than sixty years since the faith and honor of the American people were pledged to this avowal before Almighty God and the world, nearly one-sixth part of the nation are held in bondage by their fellow-citizens; and whereas slavery is contrary to the principles of natural justice, of our republican form of government, and of the Christian religion, and is destructive to the prosperity of the country, while it is endangering the peace, union and liberties of the states; and whereas we believe it the duty of slaveholders immediately to relinquish their claim to property in slaves, and that it is the duty and interest of the slaveholding states immediately to abolish slavery within their respective limits; and whereas, we believe it is practicable, by appeals to the consciences, hearts, and interests of the people, to awaken a public sentiment throughout the nation, that will be opposed to the continuance of slavery in any part of the republic, and by effecting the speedy abolition of slavery, prevent a general convulsion; and whereas, we believe we owe it to the oppressed, to our fellow-citizens who hold slaves, to our whole country, to posterity and to God, to do all that is lawfully in our power to bring about the extinction of slavery, we do hereby agree, with a prayerful reliance on the Divine aid, to form ourselves into a society to be governed by the following
ART. 1. This society shall be called the ILLINOIS ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY.
ART. 2. The object of this society is to enlighten and rectify the public sentiment of this state on the subject of slavery, and by the use of all appropriate means, secure its entire abolition in the United States. While it admits that each state in which slavery exists has, by the constitution of the United States, the exclusive right to legislate in regard to its abolition in said state, it shall aim to convince all out fellow-citizens, by argument addressed to their understandings and consciences, that the system of American slavery is a great sin in the sight of God, and that the duty, safety, and best interests of all concerned requires its immediate abandonment. The society will also endeavor, in a constitutional way, to influence Congress to put an end to the domestic slave trade, and to abolish slavery in all those portions of our common country which come under its control, especially in the District of Columbia,--and likewise to prevent the extension of it to any state that may be hereafter admitted to the Union.
ART. 3. This society shall aim to elevate the character and condition of the people of color, by encouraging their intellectual, moral, and religious improvement, and by removing public prejudice, that thus they may, according to their intellectual and moral worth, share an equality with the whites, of civil and religious privileges; but this society will never, in any way, countenance the oppressed in vindicating their rights by resorting to physical force.
ART. 4. Any person who consents to the principles of this constitution, who contributes to the funds of this society, and is not a slaveholder, may be a member of this society, and shall be entitled to vote at the meetings.
ART. 5. The officers of this society shall he a President, Vice President, a Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretaries, Treasurer, and a Board of Managers, composed of the above and not less than ten other members of the society; and five shall constitute a quorum.
ART. 6. The Board of Managers shall annually elect an Executive Committee, to consist of not less than five nor more than twelve members, which shall be located in __________ who shall have power to enact their own by-laws, fill any vacancy in their body, and in the offices of Secretary and Treasurer, employ agents, determine what compensation shall be paid to agents, and to the Corresponding Secretaries, direct the Treasurer in the application of all moneys, and call special meetings. They shall make arrangements for all meetings of the society, make an annual written report of their doings, the income, expenditures, and funds of the society, and shall hold stated meetings, and adopt the most energetic measures in their power to advance the objects of the society.
ART. 7. The President shall preside at all meetings of the Society, or, in his absence, one of the Vice Presidents, or, in their absence, a President pro tem. The Corresponding Secretaries shall conduct the correspondence of the society, and of the Executive Committee, and shall keep records of the same in separate books. The Treasurer shall collect the subscriptions, make payments at the discretion of the Executive Committee, and present a written and audited account to accompany the annual report.
ART. 8. The annual meeting of the society shall be held each year at such time and place as the Executive Committee may direct, when the accounts of the Treasurer shall be presented, the annual report read, appropriate addresses delivered, the officers chosen, and such other business transacted as shall be deemed expedient A special meeting may at any time be called at the discretion of the Executive Committee.
ART. 9. Any anti-slavery society, or association, founded on the same principles, may become auxiliary to this society. The officers of each
23auxiliary society shall be ex officio members of this society, and shall be entitled to deliberate and vote in the transaction of its concerns.
ART. 9. This constitution may be amended at any annual meeting of the society, by a vote of two-thirds of the members present, provided the amendments proposed have been previously submitted in writing to the Executive Committee.
Joseph T. Holmes
Henry C. Pitkin
David D. Nelson,
E. M. Leonard
W. P. Doe
H. H. Snow
R. P. Vance
L. N. Ranson
S. E. Moore
S. J. Thompson
T. B. Hurlbut
E. P. Lovejoy
J. A. Willard
Wm. C. Vanmeter
F. W. Graves
P. B. Whipple
C. W. Hunter
W. L. Chappell
Aaron L. Lindsley
A. B. Hitchcock
C. L. Watson
Geo. W. Fuller
R. E. W. Adams
John J. Miter
E. W. Beach
Moses Porter, jr.
To the Citizens of Illinois.
HAVING, in the exercise of our inalienable rights, united for a great moral purpose, and having been extensively misrepresented and bitterly opposed, we deem it our duty to address you in explanation of our objects and in vindication of our course. Nor are we without hope, that when the truth on these points is clearly stated and fully seen, you will not only approve the course we have taken but give us your united and efficient aid in gaining the great end of our association.
Our object is to disseminate correct views on the subject of Slavery, throughout this state, and to aid in effecting its peaceful removal from all parts of our nation and of the world.
On the duty of a deep interest in the welfare of nearly three millions of immortal minds enslaved in the midst of freedom, nor on the desirableness of bestowing on them the blessings of intelligence and religion, and restoring to them their rank and rights as men, we need not enlarge.
Who that has the heart of a philanthropist, a patriot, or a Christian, has not felt for the unhappy millions of our land, "who," in the language of Franklin, "alone in this land of freedom, are degraded into perpetual bondage, and who amidst
24the general joy of surrounding freedom, are groaning in servile subjection." And who has not longed for the day when "every yoke shall be broken and the oppressed go free."
But the importance of the object you will not deny,--still at the very outset, you may feel or say it is of no use to do any thing on the subject; we have no legal power over it; and it is entirely out of our reach; and no good can come from agitating the subject; and there is reason to anticipate much harm, excitement, division, tumult, mobs, dissolution of the Union, insurrections, civil war, blood-shed and massacres.
It must be admitted that this is a serious list of evils, and if no good can be done, and all these evils must result, it surely would become a wise man to let the subject alone. But after giving it a prayerful attention, we are satisfied that all such apprehensions are founded on false views of the motives by which we are induced to act, and of the mode in which we propose to secure the results at which we aim.
Attend, then for a few moments to a statement of our motives and modes of proceeding.
1. We believe that of all changes so great as the abolition of slavery in our country, God must be the author. The obstacles opposed to such a result from human passions and interests are too great for any mere human efforts to remove. Human agency is indeed essential, but the power must be of God.
2. We believe that God is able, if he sees fit, to produce that or any other similar change, and that so long as his agency is an element to be included in our calculations, it is both unwise and unchristian to despair.
3. No one who believes in the justice of God, and in his purposes speedily to renovate the world, can doubt that he will terminate slavery, and that ere long, in one of two ways, by violence or by the free consent of the masters of the slaves. Let no one call this idea fanatical. God is not, he cannot be indifferent to such a system of wrong. If those who have the power will not terminate it in peace, God will soon come and put an end to it by violence in the day of his wrath.
4. If we wish to have the system terminate in insurrection and blood, the way is to let it alone in its undisturbed natural progress. Or if you do not let it utterly alone, apply a remedy utterly delusive and inefficient; and heal the wound slightly, and cry peace, peace, when there is no peace. Take either of these courses and the result is sure; and at no distant day God will give us as a nation blood to drink in the cup of his wrath. Let no man sneer. This is no vision of a heated imagination. It is sober, solemn truth. Jefferson
25--and he was no fanatic--never dared to sneer upon a point like this. Listen to his emphatic words:
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature, and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events; that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest."
There is a way in which slavery may come to an end without bloodshed, without danger, without loss, but with great gain, and without delay. Multitudes we know are incredulous on this point. But this cannot alter the truth. It is still an eternal truth that it can be done. Reason attests it; experience coincides; and God, by his providence, has added his seal.
6. By the aid of God, our country can be convinced of this truth. The voice of passion can be hushed; the blinding power of interest and prejudice can be suspended ; the moral sense of the nation can be quickened, and the truth can be made to reach the heart.
7. The only hope of avoiding insurrection and a servile war, is in arousing the nation to take this course. If we do nothing, ruin is as sure as the throne of the eternal; but if in season we awake to duty we may escape.
8. The whole influence of the free states was for many years thrown entirely against the truth on this subject; and their preponderating influence is still against it. The denial of the safety of immediate emancipation by communities was once universal in the free states, and it is now very general. Now so long as any in the free states take this ground, they may say what else they please; they may call slavery an evil of any kind, moral, or political, or religious, still their whole influence is against its removal, and tends to perpetuate a delusion which promises to ruin not only the south, but the whole nation.
9. Hence the free states have a great duty to discharge on this subject. Not to intermeddle with any thing which does not belong to them; but to cease to inculcate error on a point so momentous, and to speak the truth. They have a prodigious moral influence to exert in one direction or another, either for the truth or against it, and it is their duty to exert that influence on the side of the truth, and not against it. Neutral they cannot be; on this point they must have some opinion, and exert some influence. And duty to God and to man calls on them to exert that influence for the truth, and not against it.
10. To exert such an influence violates no compact,
26agreement, or compromise. Who ever agreed not to think on this subject, or to believe error? Who ever had a right to make such an agreement? And who has a right to demand it? And when was such a claim ever set up before? We forget. The inquisition did once demand of Galileo not to believe or teach the true theory of the solar system, because it endangered the domestic institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. But where in a protestant country, and in the nineteenth century, was such a demand ever made before? Shame, shame, on a free country that the very thought of it does not call out from the united nation a burning and indignant rebuke. It is denying to the human mind the right to follow the guidance of the Spirit of God; and to exult in deliverance from error, and in the glorious freedom of the truth. It is enslaving the intellect, and crushing the holiest aspirations of the soul.
No, on this subject to be ignorant or indifferent is a crime. Every man is bound to know the truth, and to exert his influence in its behalf. The welfare of a nation is at stake, and nothing can save but to know and to believe the truth.
11. There is no danger in a full and thorough discussion of the subject, if good men will be in a holy frame of mind, and speak as in the presence of the Eternal God.
After all that has been said on the subject of excitement, good men, and professors of religion opposed to the truth, have done more to produce it than all the rest of the community put together.
They have been excited themselves, and talked of fanaticism, and agitation, and the abolition fever, till they have destroyed all sense of the presence of God in their own minds, and taken off all restraint from the wicked around them. Let them be quiet, and pray, and study their Bibles, and implore a sense of the presence of God, and be willing to reason fairly and calmly, and there is no difficulty.
There is not the least need of unhealthy excitement of any kind. The subject is grand, glorious, magnificent. It touches all of the highest interests of man. It involves the greatest principles of the age in which we live, and is destined to exert an influence on the world.
And cannot such a subject be discussed in quiet among Christian men? If not, we say shame, shame, on the Christianity of the nation; shame on the country; shame on the age. The unutterable folly and guilt of a state of mind like this there is no language to express. If we are to be sealed over to perdition, if the hottest vials of God's wrath are to smoke upon us, we need but continue such a course as this.
Is it said that the agitation of this subject will stop revivals? We reply, there is no need of any agitation, if Christians will only keep calm, and read, and pray; and if they will not, if they will cry out fanaticism and excitement, whose fault is it if there is excitement or if revivals stop? To know the truth on any subject will never stop revivals, if Christians will pray and keep near to God, much less will it on this.
12. Again there is no danger to the south in a Christian discussion of this subject. There is nothing, in our views, to endanger the master, and much that tends to his safety. It is not our opinion of the nature of slavery which endangers him, but the system itself. And whether we have any opinions or not the danger remains. Now, to reason with the master cannot increase it, and we never reason with the slave except to tell him, from a regard to the honor of God, to be patient, submissive and obedient. As to the doctrine of inalienable rights, it is not peculiar to us. You must strike out the sun and all the planets of our national system before that light can cease to blaze around the slave. The very genius of our institutions creates that danger. We need not tell him that the system is sinful, he knows it well enough without.
The thing that is needed is, to tell how it may be peaceably and safely brought to a close; and that we do tell, and admonish the slave, as he regards the favor of God, to be patient, submissive and obedient till the hour of his deliverance comes.
And as to all charges of endeavoring to excite slaves to insurrection, we say at once, they are infamous slanders. They contain not one syllable of truth. No man can prove them. Not a syllable of evidence of their truth can be found. And no language can too strongly depict the turpitude of those who deliberately attempt to fasten upon us calumnies like these.
No. We call God to witness that our whole country, and our brethren in all parts of it are dear to our hearts. For their welfare we pray without ceasing. We have a common origin, common interests and a common destiny. God, we have been taught to hope, has raised us up to aid in the great work of illuminating and blessing the world; and nothing can divide or destroy us so long as we are united in his love and in his fear. But if we fall beneath his wrath no earthly power can save us.
It is not because we do not love our brethren in the slave-holding states that we speak, but because we do, and because we fear God, and have no hope that either they or we can
28escape his wrath so long as we neglect our duty on this subject. He holds us responsible; and to keep silence is in vain.
It is a subject which the free states can understand. The system of slavery is a legal system. Its object, its principles, its laws, its tendencies are all open to our investigation, and easily understood; and the history of the world is full of light on the subject. It is ridiculous to affirm that none but slaveholders can understand the subject, or know how it ought to be terminated. Is all the experience of the world on this subject of no avail? Are all the laws of justice, humanity, and political economy veiled in darkness, except to slaveholders? The fact is that we are in a situation better to understand this subject than any slaveholding community. They see and feel the local evils of a change, but the great, general and immutable laws of nature are hid by interest or passion. But such influences operate far less on the free states, to prevent an enlarged, candid, and impartial view.
13. The slaveholding states need an influence from without to arouse them to thought. It is the tendency of the system to produce a moral torpor; and a fear of sacrifices tempts to procrastination and inaction. Nothing is more needed than a powerful, sound, moral influence from without to destroy apathy and arouse them to effort. And it is the uniform course of God's providence to arouse torpid communities by this law.
14. It is not vain to hope to influence the slaveholding states in this way. Many in them have been already influenced by the efforts already made, and regard them with joy. Of this there is ample evidence; and prejudice and excitement can be overcome by love and truth, as they have already been. God will no more suspend the great law of moral influence than the law of gravitation. It is his great moral power. What if men are excited and react? So did they at the gospel. But to the power of the united intellect and feeling of the free states guided by the spirit of God, no community on the continent can be indifferent, and its influence no community will long desire to resist. Men will be at last willing to yield to truth and love.
15. Slavery is not a peculiar interest of the south. And action on the subject if not intermeddling with what does not concern us. As a nation we are one; and by slavery we are affected in all our interests, political, commercial, social intellectual, moral and religious. Our population is migratory, and our mutual intercourse incessant. The sons and daughters of the free states are allied by marriage to those of the
29slave states, and exposed to all the influences of the system. Citizens of the slave states come to reside in the free, and those of the free reside in the slave states. The opinions of southern voters sway the sentiments and policy of political aspirants at the north for the highest offices of the nation. Southern patronage affects northern merchants; and the union of Christians in ecclesiastical associations affects the whole character and spirit of American Christianity. And the free states have political duties to perform in common with the slave states in reference to the system. To restore fugitives, to quell insurrections, to tolerate or abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and in the territories, to tolerate or abolish the domestic slave trade, to acknowledge the independence of nations of emancipated blacks, or shamefully refuse to do it, as in case of Hayti.
As a nation, too, we exert a common influence on the world; and that influence, so far as slavery is concerned, is deadly. And unless we do all in our power to remove the system, we are equally guilty for such an influence, with the south. So, too, the principle of slave labor and the influences which it creates, are antagonist to the system of free labor and subversive of the interests of the free states. Is it then, can it be true, that the free states have nothing to do with slavery? Can one half of the body be filled with poison and the other remain sound? Can pestilential influences pervade the whole body and no evil result? It is so far from being true that slavery is no concern of ours, that we have more to fear from it than from any other cause; and the common law of self-preservation calls on us to act as for our lives.
16. There is imminent danger that the fundamental principles of liberty will be lost even in the free states unless the minds of the people are aroused to consider them in their particular bearings on the subject of slavery.
When our nation was founded, the truth of these principles was deeply felt by all, and there was an entire opposition between them and the system of slavery.
Jefferson, the author of the declaration of independence, as one of his earliest political acts endeavored to secure the emancipation of the slaves in Virginia. On January 12, 1776, Virginia in her declaration of rights introduced the same principles which on July 4th of the same year were incorporated in the national declaration of independence. No doubt Jefferson was the author of them in both cases.
Franklin, one of the trainers of the constitution, and Jay, one of its expounders in the Federalist, were Presidents of Anti-Slavery Societies, and made vigorous efforts to secure its entire abolition. And in short all the fathers of our country were unanimous in the feeling that a system so at war with the principles of freedom, would endanger the existence of freedom in the nation. None justified it--none called it an essential portion of republicanism--none covered with odium those who wished to abolish it. But it was a common understanding that it should be confined to its original limits, and there abolished as soon as possible. Such was plainly the expectation of Jefferson.
But it is impossible practically to violate the principles of freedom in a large class of our fellow men without endangering the true understanding and real love of them in the community at large. This the most illustrious of the early southern statesmen saw, felt, and proclaimed in tones of earnest feeling.
31And let any one look at the state of our nation, and he cannot but see that such is now the fact. The clear view and deep feeling of the great principles of freedom, which our fathers had, is passing away, and unless as a nation we are aroused to consider them again and drink deep into the spirit of former days, our ruin as a nation is sure.
True we boast as much as ever of our freedom, but we are losing the very elementary ideas of what freedom is.-- The idea of certain immutable rights, founded in the nature of man, and which no human laws, and no voice of a majority can abrogate is, even in the free States, dying away, and the decisions of a majority, right or wrong, are with multitudes becoming the only standard of right.
Efforts too are making to prove that slavery is not an evil, and that Christianity does not forbid its eternal continuance. And there are those, even in the free States, and even in the Church of Christ, who believe it.
The right of discussing existing systems of slave law, and of comparing them with the eternal standard of immutable and original principles, is denied, and pecuniary or political interests, are placed above the eternal decisions of God, and of the truth.
The original understanding, of the founders of our nation, that slavery ought to be confined to its original limits and there as soon as possible be abolished, has passed away; and claim after claim, has been made on the free States to extend and give power to the system. It demanded first, extension, then equality, and now it demands superiority of political power.
The Constitution at first barely tolerated it; but now the claim is put forth that it is bound to defend and protect it, not only against illegal political action, for no one ever dreamed of asking for it, but even against the progress of enlightened public sentiment itself. The demand is made that the human mind itself shall be fettered, and the inalienable rights of the free sacrificed, lest any effort should be made, by the power of the truth, to induce the master to emancipate the slave.
And what is more alarming still, multitudes of the free feel no alarm at these aggressions, and some even aid to put these claims in force. And is it not time to awake from this tremendous delusion before the freedom of the free is finally and forever gone? This is no false alarm. Many are now prepared to stigmatize, as treason, and to punish with death, the very things that were once fearlessly done by Franklin, Jefferson and Jay.
Is it not true then that the true principles of freedom should be investigated anew, and the question be settled whether we are to retain them, or to lose them forever?
In article 8, section 16, of the Constitution of this State, we are told "that the frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of civil government is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty," and never was this statement more true than at the present hour. And it is our deliberate purpose to excite the community one and all, to recur to those principles and thus to avert the loss of that liberty which our fathers purchased with their blood.
17. Our opinions have been much misrepresented and misunderstood. They have been said, as before intimated, to involve a violation of the rights of the south; to tend to dissolve the Union; to incite the slaves to revolt, and massacre, and to involve the land in civil war. And we have been called fanatics, incendiaries and misguided men. Now such charges can originate only from ignorance of our sentiments, or deliberate malignity. As we are not willing to impute the last to any respectable portion of our fellow citizens, we cannot but ascribe such representations to ignorance of our real opinions. And this so far as we know is the fact. Multitudes have never read any thing on the subject at all. They have heard vague and indefinite charges of something horrible, and without stopping to think, have been borne away in the torrent of excitement, and joined in the popular cry. But we are confident that if the voice of passion could be hushed and the community be induced calmly to listen to the truth, and thoughtfully to inquire, that all alarm would cease. Our doctrines lend not to excitement, discord or division, but to peace. That some get angry at them we admit, but the justice of their anger we deny, and most confidently assert that the tendency of our views is salutary, as it regards all the great interests of humanity.
They elevate and strengthen the moral sentiment of the community, give power to a just regard for all human rights, and sustain and strengthen the institutions of our country. True, they expose the guilt of slavery, but they also point out a way of escape; and let them but prevail, and all is harmony, safety, and peace.
With such deep convictions of the danger of entirely losing the fundamental principles of freedom by inaction, and of the salutary tendency of the views we hold, we deem it not merely a privilege but a sacred duty, not only to man, but to God, to endeavor to give them universal prevalence; and in so doing to join with him in his great designs of disenthralling
33a world, and of bestowing on every human being the full enjoyment of the highest blessings of civil and religious liberty. Our principles and motives are now before you. We shall add a brief statement of the measures which we intend to adopt.
1. We shall endeavor to induce all our fellow citizens, to elevate their minds above all selfish, pecuniary, political, and local interests; and from a deep sense of the presence of God to regard solely the eternal and immutable principles of truth which no human legislature or popular sentiment can alter or remove.
2. We shall endeavor to present the question, as one between this community and God--a subject on which He deeply feels, and on which we owe great and important duties to him and to our fellow citizens.
3. We shall endeavor as far as possible, to allay the violence of party strife, to remove all unholy excitement, and to produce mutual confidence and kindness, and a deep interest in the welfare of all parts of our nation; and a strong desire to preserve its union and promote its highest welfare.
Our entire reliance is upon truth and love and the influences of the Holy Spirit. We desire to compel no one to act against his judgment or conscience by an oppressive power of public sentiment. But to arouse all men to candid thought and impartial inquiry in the fear of God, we do desire.
And to accomplish this end we shall use the same means that are used to enlighten and elevate the public mind on all other great moral subjects--personal influence, public address, the pulpit and the press.
4. We shall endeavor to produce a new and radical investigation of the principles of human rights, and of the relations of all just legislation to them, deriving our principles from the nature of the human mind, the relations of man to God, and the revealed will of the Creator.
5. We shall then endeavor to examine the slave laws of our land in the light of these principles, and to prove that they are essentially sinful, and that they are at war alike with the will of God and all the interests of the master, the slave, and the community at large.
6. We shall then endeavor to show in what manner communities where such laws exist may relieve themselves at once in perfect safety and peace both of the guilt and dangers of the system.
7. And until communities can be aroused to do their duties, we shall endeavor to illustrate and enforce the duties of individual slaveholders in such communities.
We have thus fully and frankly laid before you our motives
34and measures. From what has been said, it is plain that we have a perfect and inalienable right to do all that we propose; and no one has any right to hinder us by law or by force.
There are powerful and urgent reasons for adopting this course. There are no good reasons against it.
It is alike the interest and the duty of all to join with us.
May we not then make of you a few reasonable requests.
Do not condemn our opinions unheard. Do not yield to prejudice, or fear an odious or unpopular name. Be willing at least to know what our opinions are, whether you embrace them or not.
Examine carefully our principles, as stated in this report. We do not say believe them, but only give them a careful, candid and thorough examination. Surely they merit that. They relate to things inferior in importance to none this side of eternity. They have been the favorite study of some of the noblest minds which God has ever favored, and at this hour they are exciting the attention of, the civilized world. And are they not worthy of a passing thought? Are they not a worthy theme of investigation for the noblest powers of the highest mind?
2. Seek information from authentic sources on the whole subject. It is a great subject. To understand it fully you ought not only to investigate principles, but to be familiar with facts; you ought to examine the codes of slave laws in order to know what slavery is in theory, and the decisions of courts to know how it is carried out into practice by the highest legal authorities. And you need all the statistical information, which is essential to enable you to understand all the present workings of the system, and its tendencies as to the future.
Think not that you fully understand it now. Those who have often said so, have been convinced again and again that the half of its evils they had not seen.
But especially is a knowledge of facts needed to judge of the best mode of terminating the system. And it is remarkable that the plan of gradual emancipation was tried and found delusive, and that the plan of immediate emancipation is the result of a long course of trials of various systems, and not of any visionary theory. And to see its full merits you must be acquainted with facts. The whole history of Christendom is full of facts on the subject, but especially for the last fifty years. All these ought to be examined and weighed.
3. Lay aside then the vulgar prejudices of the day. Do not talk of "letting loose the slaves on the community;" and of "blood and carnage;" do not raise the scarecrow of "amalgamation."
35Act like candid and rational men. Understand what the plan is; give it a fair and candid examination; weigh well the facts on which it is based; and decide in view of arguments, and not under the influence of passion or prejudice.
4. If convinced of the truth of our opinions, and of their tendency to promote the public good, rise above the fear of odium, or loss, and join us in advancing the holy cause of freedom and promoting the highest interests of your fellow men.
5. If not, meet us with argument and not with odium, or with force. We are willing to reason. We desire it. And if wrong, surely there is intellect and moral power enough in the community to expose our errors by fair reasoning. Against this we will never object. We promise to be kind, candid, and calm, and to give to all arguments their full weight, and to yield to the truth. But to odium or force we can never yield. And it is not worthy of a magnanimous community to resort to means like these. If we are a minority, for that very reason our rights ought to be held the more sacred. If we are willing to rest our cause on argument alone, how much more ought a majority to be willing to do the same.
6. Remember that you are acting on great moral principles, in view of the civilized world, and of God; and that truth will ultimately prevail, and all who oppose it be disgraced; whilst those who fearlessly maintain it will be held in honorable and eternal remembrance. Of what avail is limited popularity to be followed by eternal contempt? The judgment of the Christian world no state nor nation can resist. And on this state, that judgment will soon be past. One act of lawless violence in opposing the progress of the truth; one deed of infamy and blood has fixed the eyes of the nation and of the world on us, and as a state we have a character to gain or lose, the worth of which cannot be estimated in untold sums of silver and gold. As a state we are not yet entirely disgraced. Nor need we be at all. A sound public sentiment as it regards the maintenance, and execution of law, and liberal and enlarged views as it regards the investigation of truth, may soon give us as a state, a higher standing than we have ever had before.
7. Weigh well the importance of the position occupied by this state, in the great West, and the influence to be exerted by us on coming generations.
As a state we influence the west, the west influences our nation, and our nation the world.
36And what shall that influence be? In name we are a free state, shall we be so in fact?
Shall the great principles of freedom, be understood and graven on our hearts, or as a dead letter shall they stand in our constitution only to be disgraced by our conduct, and to show more clearly the depths of our infamy?
Shall God reign over us by the sweet influences of truth, and of law; or shall the foundations of society be dissolved, and anarchy, misrule, and bloodshed, become the order of the day?
Our destiny is in our own hands. Never did a community enjoy an opportunity more desirable, in blessing a nation, and a world, to win eternal renown, and never was a community more sure of eternal disgrace, if treacherous to the great principles of freedom, and hostile to the progress of the human mind, and to the sacred interests of the human race. Choose then. Choose wisely.
In conclusion we would say to all Christians, no language can estimate the responsibility which rests on you. "Ye are the light of the world, ye are the salt of the earth," ye are the medium through whom God exerts his power to bless and save.
If united, prayerful, holy, you can create an atmosphere of love, in which the intellectual and moral energies of the community shall be developed and expand, in harmony and peace. It is yours to bring down from on high, those holy influences, by which the storm of sinful passion shall be allayed, while the still small voice of God is heard, and a holy awe of him settles down upon the soul. And if you are faithful to your God, and to your country, all will be well.
And on what subject is prayer needed, if not on this?-- What interest so vast? What subject so intimately connected with our welfare as individuals, and as a nation? Do we not need the presence and the aid of God, and will you not seek it in earnest fervent prayer. A crisis in the history of this State, and of our nation is at hand. Shall that crisis come and pass, and no voice of prayer be heard? If so it will be a day of wrath. If on this subject we will not pray, we shall not escape the judgments of God.
Let every heart then feel, and every voice be raised to God for aid. Let no man call it a party or a sectarian question. It is not, it cannot be. There is no interest on this subject, but to know the truth, and to see the path of duty, and this is alike the interest of all. "What meanest thou then O sleeper, awake and call upon God, that we perish not."
"Denying this privilege was repugnant to every principle of humanity--an everlasting stigma on our government--an act of unequalled barbarity, without a color of policy, or a pretext of necessity to justify it."--William Pinckney to the legislature of Maryland.
We may talk of liberty in our public councils, and fancy that we feel a reverence for her dictates--we may declaim, with all the vehemence of animated rhetoric, against oppression, and flatter ourselves that we detest the ugly monster; but so long as we continue to cherish the poisonous weed of partial slavery among us, the world will doubt our sincerity. In the name of Heaven, with what face can we call ourselves the friends of equal freedom, and the inherent rights of our species, when we wantonly pass laws inimical to each."
Here Wm. Pinckney again:--"Call not Maryland a land of liberty--do not pretend that she has chosen this country for an assylum--that she has erected her temple, and consecrated her shrine when here alas! her unhallowed enemy holds his hellish Pandemonium, and our rulers offer sacrifice at his polluted altars. The lily and the bramble may grow in social proximity, but liberty and slavery delighteth in separation."
"I think a change already perceptible, since the origin of the present revolution. The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave is rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consent of the masters, rather than by their extirpation."