J. T. (Jesse Thomas) Gibbs.

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Copyright, 1913.




Slavery was introduced into the Jamestown

Colony in 1G19 by the Commander of a Dutch trading

lntroduc= vessel, who sold twenty negroes to the set-

tion. tiers. They were useful in the cultivation

of tobacco and their labor increased the production of

that plant.

Daring the early colonial period slavery existed

in all the colonies. In the north slaves were used

chiefly as house servants, while in the

In all the g^^^j^ ^j^ey worked on the plantations, do-
Colonies. -^

ing practically all the work of the farm.

Slavery was not profitable in the north and was
gradually abolished there.

The invention of the Cotton Gin by Ely Whitney

in 1793 greatly increased the profits of slave labor.

With this machine three men could ex-

The Cot= ^^,^^^ ^^^ ^g^^g fj,Qj^ -j^QQQ pounds of cotton

ton Qin. , . i i

in a day, while by hand one able-Dodied

man could pick but one pound in a day.


By a provision of the Ordinance of 1787
"f i'ts't^^ Slavery was prohibited in the Northwest
Territory forever.
The Constitution of the United States provided,
in Article I., Section IX., Clause 1, that the importa-
tion of slaves into the United States could

"^•^ ^x- **"° iiofc he prohibited prior to the year One
stitution. f f J

Thousand Eight Hundred and Eight.

Early in the constitutional period, the country di-
vided into two sections on the Slavery Question, the
South favoring and the North opposing it.
n* 'A a ^^ ^^^^^ time Slavery, being unprofitabh^
in the North, had gradually died out in
that section and existed only south of the Mason and
Dixon Line.

Whenever the question of admitting a new state
came up in Congress, each of these sections studied
the situation carefully to determine whether the ad-
mission of that particular state would be to its disad-

Thus when Ohio was admitted, in 1803, it came
in as a free state by the provision of the Ordinance
of 1787, and the southern section, tliinking that the
northern free states were getting too nutnerous and
too powerful and might some day ont-vot(^ them on


all questions that might arise in Congress, demanded

the admission of Louisiana, a southern, slave state,

which was admitted in 1812. Then followed Indiana,

free, in 1816; Mississippi, slave, in 1817; Illinois,

free, in 1818 ; Alabama, slave, in 1819; and Maine,

free, in 1820. This about preserved the relative

strength of the two sections.

When Missouri applied for admission to the Union

a violent discussion arose as to whether it should

^^ ... come in as a free or a slave state. The
The Mis=

souri Com= proposed state was more northern than
promise, southern in geographical location, but the
people of the proposed state favored slavery, and the
southern section claimed it was their turn to have a
state admitted favorable to their views on the Slavery
Question — the last previous state admitted (Maine)
being a free state.

This controversy was settled by a bill in Congress
proposed by Henry Clay. This bill was known as
the Missouri Compromise. By its provisions Mis-
souri was to be admitted as a slave state, but Slavery
was to be forever prohibited in the other territory
west of the Mississippi River and north of the line of
36 degrees and 30 minutes north latitude, the south-
ern boundarv line of Missouri.


The bill became a law in 1820 and Missonri was
admitted as a slave state in 1821.

There were persons in the colonies who thought

Slavery to be wrong and that it should be abolished.

^ ^. ^ The framers of the famous Ordinance of

Against 1787 recognized the evil of Slavery and in
Slavery, ^-j^g provisions for the organization of the
Northwest Territory they forbade Slavery there or in
the states to be formed from that territory.

The framers of the Constitution recognized that
the Slavery question was a much discussed subject
and that sooner or later the opposition to the system
would crystallize in an effort to abolish Slavery and
the slave trade. They provided in Article I, Section
IX, Clause 1, that the slave trade could not be abol-
ished before the year 1808.

Washington kept slaves, and one of the provisions
of his will was that after his death his slaves should
be free.

In 1807 England prohibited the Slave trade in that
country. The matter was much talked about in this
country, and approved by many, and the
Abolishes slave trade was abolished in this country
Slave trade gQQ^ after. This with the repeated discus-
sions that arose upon the admission of states during


Madison's and Monroe's terms of the Presidency,
brought the people up to fever heat. It was just at
this time that Chiy's Missouri Compromise quelled
the excitement. Many persons believed the matter
permanently settled.

When Abraham Lincoln was about 18 or 19 years
of age he, with a companion, went down the Ohio
River and the Mississippi River to New Orleans with
a raft loaded with produce for sale. It was his first
visit to that city and he was much interested in every-
thing he saw while there.

One day he and his companion were passing along
the street when their attention was attracted by the
sound of the voice of an auctioneer. Joining the
crowd that had gathered on the street, they soon
learned that an auction sale of slaves was in progress.
A negro family was being sold, some of the members
to be taken to one place and some to another.

Lincoln and his companion did not remain long
near the disagreeable scene. As they walked away,
Lincoln was particularly quiet for some time, when
he said to his companion, ''If I ever get a chance to
hit slavery, I'm going to hit it hard."

During the period that followed the enactment of
the Missouri Compromise, many able writers wrote


upon the evils of slavery, and many

" preachers and other public speakers told
Literature ^ r- r

their hearers that the evil should be abol-

Pamphlets were printed and circulated urging the
abolition of slavery. Able editorial writers in both
the secular and the religious press kept the minds of
the people agitated with the horrors and the injustice
of slavery.

One of these was Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, editor
of the "Observer", a religious paper published in Sr.
Louis. Having more or less trouble with his publi-
cation in St. Louis, which was in a slave state, he de-
cided to remove to a free state and located at Alton,
Illinois. Here the pro-slavery element were very bit-
ter against him and his work. His printing press
was destroyed, and he secured another. This was
destroyed and another secured. The third press was
destroyed and the fourth secured.

The question now seemed to be the right of free'
speech and a free press and the people divided into
two classes, the one defending Lovejoy's right to
print his views and the other determined to prevent
the publication of his paper because it was hurting
slavery. They tliought that by obstrueting Lovejoy


and ruining bini financially they would over-awe any
other persons who might want to publish anti-slavery

Lovejoy and his friends decided to defend this
fourth press and in doing so, Lovejoy was shot and
killed by a mob which destroyed the press on the
night of November 8, 1837.

The news of the murder of Lovejoy spread very
rapidly over the country and aroused the bitterest an-
tagonism of the anti-slavery people against those re-
sponsible for the crime. Instead of over-aweing the
opponents of slavery, it made them more bold. Even
the pro-slavery element of the south recognized that
the matter had been carried too far.

Lovejoy was considered a martyr to the cause of a
free press, and an elegant monument has since been
erected in Alton to his memory.

While Illinois was still a territory the pro-slavery

element of the country made several attempts to have

the provisions of the Ordinance of 1787

...*". changed so that when the territory was ad-

mitted to statehood it could be admitted as

a slave state. James Madison prevented the change

in the Ordinance of 1787.

After Illinois was admitted to the Union as a state


an effort was made to chaiDge the constitution, wliich
had been formed along: the line of the provisions of
the Ordinance of 1787, so that slavery conld be intro-

While Edward Coles was Governor of the state,
the legislature, which had a majority of members fa-
voring slavery, submitted to a vote of the people a
proposition to so change the constitution.

The campaign was long and hotly contested. Gov.
Coles was bitterly opposed to slavery and gave his
salary for four years ($4000.00) to defeat the pro-
posed amendment. When the result of the election
was learned it was found that the anti-slavery ele-
ment had won by a majority of about 1800.

Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote "Uncle Tom's
Cabin", a pathetic story of slave life and treatment.
It produced a marked effect upon the sent-
Tom's iment of the country, and, especially, of

Cabin ^j^g north, concerning slavery. The first

edition was printed in 1852. The book is still on the

Many plantation melodies were written, some of
which have survived to the present time. Stephan C.
Foster's "Suwanee River", "Massa's In the Cold,
Cold Ground" and "Mv Old Kentucky Home", will


likely live for ages to come, while B. R. Hanby's
''Darling Nellie Gray" is still a favorite. It express-
es the deepest pathos in the line, '.'They have taken
her to Georgia for to wear her life away." These
are only a few of the many things in literature that
kept the subject of slavery before the people.

The south did not want the Slavery question agita-
ted so much, for they saw that sentiment was against
them. But since the assassination of Lovejoy men
boldly printed their thoughts.

The Slavery question had as much as anything
else to do with the defeat of Henry Clay for the pres-
idency of the United States. He was nom-

Defeats i^ated for president by the Whigs in 1844.

The democrats nominated James K. Polk.

One of the chief issues of the campaign was the pro-
posed annexation of Texas, an independent republic
that had asked to be admitted into the Un-

Annexation.^^^ as a state. The democrats favored the
of Texas

annexation for it would increase the num-
ber of slave states. The Whigs, most of whom lived
in the north, opposed the annexation because it might
give too much power to the slave states. Polk was
elected and Texas was admitted as a slave state.

Charles Dickens, the celebrated English novelist.


made a tour of the United States in 1842, coming as
far west as St. Louis. He made copious notes upon
his experiences and observations. These he later
compiled in a book called "American Notes", which
was published and widely circulated. In this he
makes considerable sport of many things he observed
during his sojourn.

While in the city of Washington, he visited the
capitol. One of the mauy things that interested him
here was a large engraved copy of the Declaration of
Independence that hung upon the wall of one of the
rooms. He inspected the prized document closely,
admiring the humane thoughts Mr. Jefferson and oth-
ers had put into it. He read that declaration that
says that "all men are created free and equal", and
then he "roasted" us soundly for allowing slavery to
exist. He laid special emphasis on the slave traffic
being carried on in the District of Columbia, almost
under that declaration.

No doubt this criticism was partially responsible
for the 4th provision of the Omnibus Bill, which pro-
hibited traffic in slaves in the District of Columbia.

In 1846, David Wilmot, a member of congress
from Pennsylvania, introduced a bill into congress
which was known as the Wilmot Proviso. Bv its


provisions slavery was to be prohibited in

Wiimot ^^^ territory wliich should be acquired
Proviso -^

from Mexico in the war about to begin and

all other territory that should be acquired. This bill
never became a law, but was the subject of much bit-
ter discussion in all parts of the country, and helped
to widen the breach between the north and the south.
Following our successful war against Mexico,
which had been brought on because of a mis-under-
standing as to the boundary line between

Omnibus rp^^^^g ^^^^ Mexico we acquired a vast a-

mount of territory extending to the Pacific

Coast. Gold had been discovered in California and
the state settled up very rapidly. When the question
of admitting California to the Union arose, the whole
Slavery subject was re-opened. The discussion be-
came very bitter. Henry Clay, who by his compro-
mising attitude upon this and other public questions
won the sobriquet of "The Great Pacificator", put
forward the famous Omnibus Bill, or Compromise of
I80O. It provided :

1st. That California should come in as a free

2nd. That Utah and New Mexico should be or-
ganized without any reference to the slavery question.


:Jr(l. That Texas should be paid $10,000,000 to
^ive lip her claim od New Mexico.

4th. That the buying and selling of slaves should
be prohibited in the District of Columbia, and

5th. That a fugitive slave law should be enacted
providing for the return of runaway slaves to their

When it was proposed to organize the territories

of Kansas and Nebraska the bitterness of the Slavery

„ question burst forth again with renewed

Kansas^ ^ '^

Nebraska f^^iy. Stephan A. Douglas, United States
^'" Senator from Illinois, introduced his fam-

ous bill advocating the doctrine of "Squatter Sover-
eignty", i. e., that the inhabitants of a territory
should have the right to decide for themselves whe-
ther the proposed state should be free or slave. This
bill became a law in 1854 and was practically a repeal
of the Missouri Compromise.

The struggle was now transferred from Congress

to Kansas, to the relief of the Congressmen, but to

the great detriment of the people of Kan-

... - sas. A cruel "Border Warfare", lastiny-

Warfare '

four years blighted the state's progress.
Dred Scott was a negro slave. His master, an
arnjy officer, took liim from Missoui-i, a slave state,


first to Illinois and later to Minnesota. He
Scott believed that because he had been taken

Decision j^^j-^ f^.g^ territory that he should have his

freedom. The ease was carried to the Supreme Court

of the United States for decision. In an opinion

handed down by Chief Justice Taney, the Supreme

Court denied Dred Scott his freedom and declared

that a slave owner might take his slaves into free

territory without forfeiting any of his rights to them.

This decision re-opened the whole slavery discus-
sion in its bitterest form. It made all the states slave
states ; if the slave owner had first acquired title to
slaves in a slave state, he might take them to any free
state and hold them as slaves. The south rejoiced
over the decision, but the feeling of disappointment
and disgust in the north was very great.

The Fugitive Slave Law, providing for the return

of slaves, escaping to the free states, to their owners

_ . . in the slave states, passed according to a

Slave provision of the Omnibus Bill, proved very

L^^ unpopular at the north. Many of the free

states passed Personal Liberty Bills, guaranteeing to

run-away slaves the right of trial by jury before they

could be re- taken to slave territory.

Many serious northern people wanted to help the


negro, and the recent acts and decisions being mostly

.... ^ against them, thev obeyed their conscienc-

"Under- ^ j . .

ground es rather than the Fngitive Slave Law, and

Railway" helped many run -away slaves to get across

the country to Canada, where they would be free by

the English law. This system of help was known as

the ''Underground Railway." The south complained

very bitterly because of it.

The celebrated Lincoln-Douglas Debates occurred

in Illinois in the campaign of 1858. During these

debates Mr. Lincoln succeeded in getting

Douglas Mr. Douglas to so express himself that,
Debates while Illinois was pleased with him and
re-elected him to the United States Senate, the south
was not satisfied with his position on the Slavery
question. In 1860 the Charleston Democratic Con-
vention refused to nominate Douglas for the Presi-
dency; the convention divided, the northern wing of
the party went to Baltimore and nominated Douglas ;
the southern wing later met in Baltimore and named
John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, as their candi-
date.. The Republicans met in Chicago and nominat-
ed Abraham Lincoln, whose slavery views were very
distasteful to the south.

Lincoln was elected and thus the Slavery question


had kept another good man— Douglas— from becom-
ing President as it had done Clay. The south could
not stand the election of Lincoln and secession and
war followed.

John Brown, of Osawatomie, Kansas, who had
taken part in the four years' "Border Warfare" in

Kansas, burned with a desire to free the
Brown's slaves. He and twenty companions seized

*^3*^ the United States Arsenal at Harper's Fer-
ry, Virginia, in 1859, and declared all the slaves free,
expecting that the slaves, themselves, would rise a-
gainst their masters and support Brown and his raid-
ers. They did not. John Brown was arrested by
Col. Robert E. Lee, charged with treason, convicted
and hanged. "John Brown's body lies a-moldering
in the grave" became part of a song that was sung
all over the north during the civil war.

While there were a number of causes that led to

the Civil War, it is certain that the Slavery question.

Civil ^^^^ *'^^ many bitter discussions it engen-

War dered, was among the most important.

Most of the slave-holding states seceded from the

Union and President Lincoln undertook to maintain

the Union by force of arms.

It was durino: the war, when General Robert E.

DEC B 1913 ^


Lee, the dariiie: soutliern leader, was driven back

from his invasion of Maryland, in the bat-
tion Proc- tie of Antietam (September 17, 1862), that

lamation Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation
Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863, declaring:
that the slaves in states or parts of states in open re-
bellion against the United States should be free.

Of this proclamation Lincoln said, "I made a sol-
emn vow before God, that if General Lee was driven
back from Maryland I w^ould crowai the result by the
declaration of freedom to the slaves."

There is no doubt that the slavery ques-
tion of tion was almost entirely responsible for the

Lincoln assassination of Lincoln.
The abolition of Slavery was accomplished by the
ratification of the XIII Amendment to the constitu-
tion of the United States. And thus a question that
caused three quarters of a century of strife, four
years of cruel war and cost millions of dollars was
settled for all time.

54 W

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GrartlviMe, Pi
Jan Feb 1989


Online LibraryJ. T. (Jesse Thomas) GibbsSlavery → online text (page 1 of 1)