Calvin Colton.

Abolition a sedition. By a northern man online

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into their American provinces. "In 1760, South
Carolina, a British Colony, passed an act to pro-
hibit further importation ; but Great Britain reject-
ed this act with indignation, and declared that the
slave trade was beneficial and necessary to the mo-
ther country^ The Governors of the Colonies had
positive orders to sanction no law enacted against
the slave trade. In Jamaica, in the year 1765, an
attempt was made to abolish the trade to that island.
The Governor declared, that his instructions would
never allow him to sign the Bill. It was tried
again in 1774, but Great Britain, by the Earl of
Dartmouth, President of the Board, answered : We
cannot allow ike Colonies to check or discourage^
in any degree^ a traffic so beneficial to the nation.^^\

* Bryant Edward's West Indies.

f Professor Dew's Review of the Debate in the Virgiuie^
Jjcgislature, of l83l-'32.


The history of legislation, ia the Colony of Vir-
ginia, records twenty-three Acts, imposing duties
on the importation of slaves, with the avowed de-
sign of suppressing the trade. " In 1772, most of
the duties, previously imposed, were re-enacted,
and the Assembly transmitted, at the same time, a
petition to the Throne, of which tlie following are
extracts : —

" ' We are encouraged to look up to the Throne,
and implore your Majesty's paternal assistance, in
averting a calamity of a most alarming nature. . . .
The importation of slaves into the Colonies from
the coast of Africa, hath long been considered a
trade of great inhumanity^ and under its present
encouragement, we have too much reason to fear,
will endanger the very existence of your Majesty's
American dominions. Deeply impressed with these
sentiments, we most humbly beseech your Majesty
to remove all those restraints on your Majesty's
Governors of this Colony, which prohibit such
laws as might check so very pernicious a com-

" The first Assembly which met in Virginia,
after the adoption of her Constitution, prohibited
the traffic ; and ' the inhuman use of the royal
prerogative'' agamst the action of the Colony
upon this subject, is enumerated in the first clause
of the first Virginia Constitution, as a reason ofi
the separation from the mother country.''''*

Such was the common feeling of the Southern
Colonies, though more decidedly manifested in
Virginia. They never invited, they never tempt-

* Profcfjcr Dr\v.


cd tliG slave trade, except by a silent acquiescence
for a season, in what was imposed upon them by
the cupidity of foreigners, and the mandates of
authority, before the public conscience of man-
kind had begun to remonstiate; and the moment
they opened their eyes to its domestic results
among themselves, they set their faces, and em-
ployed all their lawful powers, against it.

" Federal America interdicted the slave trade
from her ports thirteen years before Great Bri-
tain ; she made it punishable as a crime seven
years- before, she fixed /br/r years sooner the pe-
riod of non-importation — which period was earli-
er than that determined upon by Great Britain for
her Colonies."*

For the introduction of Slavery into America,
therefore, the Americans themselves are acquit
of all political responsibility. All that can be
said is, that individuals purchased slaves that
were brought and offered, when the public con-
science of the world tolerated the traffic; but it
was under the authority, and by the imposition, of
a parent Government, in another Continent, that
slavery was reared into a domestic and political
institution, the process all the while having been
solemnly protested against by those whose voice
had a claim to be heard, and who were most inti-
mately concerned, until it grew into a magnitude
and importance, too form.idable to be dealt with
by a violent hand of excision and extirpation —
sufficiently formidable, indeed, to demand the ut.

* Walsh's Appeal.


most wisdom and prudence of man for its treat-
ment and ultimate disposal.

Thus, having fairly wiped from the American
escutcheon the political responsibility of intro-
ducing slavery in this Continent, and among our-
selves, it remains to be considered, how far the
present generation of slaveholding Americans are
responsible for this state of things. The sum of
the matter lies in one short sentence ; They were
born into the world the heirs of this condition.
In no manner or degree are they responsible for
it, any farther than they maintain it, and as' they
maintain it. We suppose the Abolitionists them-
selves would not differ widely from us here, ex-
cept as, perad venture, some of them may take
their stand on the theological proposition — " In
Adam's fall we sinned all." If, however, it may
be assumed, that all agree on this point, it is the
simple and the great question ot issue. The slave
States say, that is their business ; and the Abo-
litionists say, it is ours. This is the contest — the
question to he tried.

And one of the apologies of the Abolitionists,
for interference in this concern, is, that the whole
nation is involved in the responsibiUty. Let us
see, whether this be true. It must be admitted,
that it requires some study to comprehend the na-
ture of our political fabric, as a nation, with the
relations of its parts to each other, and to the
Unity ; but still, like a mathematical problem,
though obscure and misty to the intellect, before
it is laid down and demonstrated step by step, it
is afterwards no less clear and satisfactory. It


happens, that this task has already been done in
a former chapter, and requires only to be restated
here. The great principle, and its whole scope,
are laid down before the eye, in the tenth Article
of the Federal Constitution.* By this rule, the
respective States are declared possessed, by ori-
ginal right, of all independent and sovereign pow-
ers, not "delegated or prohibited" by the Federal
Constitution. In these limited attributes of so-
vereignty, therefore, they are placed precisely on
the footing of all other independent States and
Nations ; and as the institution of slavery, and
all legislation over it, is one of these " reserved"
powers, it follows, that all its responsibility de-
volves on those States, in which it exists, and is
maintained. It is impossible it should extend any
farther, from the nature of the compact. It is a
simple proposition, and may be understood by
any body, by a child, that I cannot be responsible
for that which the laws of society forbid me to
meddle with ; and this is precisely the proposition
which sets forth and limits the responsibility of
slavery in the United States. The Union was
formed on these conditions, and in an exigency
under which the parties were forced to combine
for common good, with mutual concessions thus
specified, in the same manner as a society of any
individual persons is formed by mutual compact
and mutual concession, and the responsibility of
every member is limited by the line thus marked
out. As he is not permitted to trespass on the

* Page 52.


rights secured to others, he cannot be held respon-
sible for anv thino- that would demand such a tres-
pass. If the rights thus secured are invaded, or
violated, the administration of justice does not de-
volve on individual members of the community,
or on any combination not provided for by law,
but on the constituted and public authorities. Even
though there be manifest injustice for which the
law does not provide a remedy, or injustice sanc-
tioned by law, the same principle applies, and the
evil can be redressed only by a constitutional le-

But, it is said, the principle of slavery is incor-
porated and sanctioned in the Federal Constitu-
tion ; and we arc all at least so far responsible.
This, surely, will not be urged by Abolitionists,
who have formally and publicly declared, by their
own mode of legislation, as shown in the previ-
ous chapter, that this principle has ceased to ex-
ist, and is no longer binding. But suppose it
does exist. It neither declares, nor sanctions, the
right of slavery as such : but simply interposes
the authority of a principle, which applies equally
to all the Stales, to enable them to maintain and
secure their domestic institutions, as established
by their sovereign will — a principle, which may
accidentally operate more in favour of one Slate,
than of another, but which is equally important
to all, and is habitually employed by all. The
Government of the United States, therefore, is
not responsible in this matter, politically consider-
ed ; and therefore not responsible at all, as it ex-
ists only as a political institution. All these


pLiblic relations are political, and can involve no
other responsibility than that which is prescribed
by the laws of the social state, as it exists. The
relation of the master to the slave involves a re-
sponsibility which applies to private conscience,
and the master must answer for it. So also the
relation of the master to that political common-
wealth which maintains slavery ; and he must
answer for that, to the extent of his political in-
fluence and relations. And so with every mem-
ber of such a commonwealth ; but fartlier than
this, he cannot be held to account. This, we
think, is the legitimate domain of conscience, and
the limit of responsibility, in regard to this subject.
But, it will yet be said, that the Government of
the United States is the public guardian of slavery,
by the force and habitual application of the fourth
article of the Federal Constitution ; and therefore,
all the citizens of the Republic are involved in this
responsibility, and consequently have a right to
concern themselves about it. Notwithstanding, it
cannot be denied, that the Federal compact bars
this claim ; and the Christian's conscience might
find its salvo in the Scripture which saith — " He
Fhall abide in the Tabernacle and holy hill of the
Lord, who sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth
not." In the day of trial, our fathers swore to this
compact, and bound their cliildren in the covenant,
if we accept the inheritance ; if not, then we iiave
no voice in the matter. But, we think, the politi-
cal pledge of the general Government to maintain
the domestic institutions of the several States, in
case of need, so far as they do not interfere with
the prerogatives " delegated," or those " prohibit-


ed," does not involve a responsibility for the
character of those institutions — not at all.

The Union is admitted to have been indispensi-
ble to our National Independence, and the slave
States came into it on the condition, that the institu-
tion of slavery should not be disturbed, and that it
should be maintained in the way the Federal Con-
stitution prescribes. Whether slavery was right
or wrong in itself, or how long it should be main-
tained, were questions never submitted ; but were
left among the " reserved" rights. The Union
never had any responsibility in the existence of
slavery ; it never assumed any ; it has never had
any whatever ; it has only covenanted to protect
the sovereign rights of the slave States, as it has
the sovereign rights of all other States, leaving to
them the sovereign control over their own domes-
tic institutions, without assuming any one item of
responsibility in regard to their character. The
principle which forbids the interference of the
Union, absolves it irom responsibility.

But still the Abolitionist holds his ground, as a
religionist, and declares, that he is bound to have a
care for all his fellow creatures, and to help them,
wherever he sees them laboring under anv evils,
physical or moral, or any wrongs social or political.
So far as his benevolence extends to those who suf-
fer under social and political wrongs, if they hap-
pen to be beyond the limits of his own Common-
wealth, we can only give him a piece of advice,
which he may use or not, at his own discretion,
viz. that, till the world gets to be in a more favora-
ble state for the range of his sympathies, as a re-
ligionist claiming to carry his religion into politics


by force, he had better be content with the wisdonl
of iMoses, who, as it would seem, saw fit, not only
to tolerate, but to legalize, slavery — for whatever
may be said of different forms ^ it cannot be denied
that the principle was there. Or, with the wisdom
of the Apostle Paul, who, instead of interfering with
the political fabrics of his time, in regard to this as
well as other matters, sent back Onesimus, a run-
away slave, thereby recognizing the legal claim of
his master, Philemon, with such messages as these:
"If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought,

put that to my account Whom I would

have retained .... but ivithout thy mind would

I do nothing Though I might be much

bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is conveni-
ent, yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee." Or,
with the wisdom of the Apostle Peter, who saidi
" Servants, be subject to your Masters with all fear
— not only to the good and gentle, but to theyVo-
ward. And what glory is it, if, when ye shall be
buffetted for your faults, ye take it patiently ; but if,
when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it pa-
tiently, this is acceptable to God." It is also writ-
ten by "such an one as Paul, the aged: Let as
many servants as are under the yoke, coimt their
own Masters worthy of all honor, that the name of
God and his doctrines be not blasphemed, &c.
These things,''^ saith he to Timothy, " teach and
exhorty For, we think, the Abolitionist would be
much better employed in imitating these ilkistrious
examples, than by inculcating sedition, and stirring
up insurrection. Or, if this should not suit his
taste, then we would advise him by all means, to
let the politics of foreign States alone, as it is a de-


licate and dangerous business, not as yet tolerated
by the actual state of society. If he thinks so, he
may rely upon it, he has made a mistake.

If, however, he insists on being thus occupied,
and since his labors are not well received in the
slave holding States of America, and seem likely to
do more hurt than good, we would advise him to
*' shake ofl' the dust off his feet against them," and
turn to another field, and still more remote, as he
likes distant objects. If he would do the greatest
amount of good, and since he is resolved to have a
foreign field, let him try where the evil exists in
more aggravated forms. For there is actually less
slavery in the United States, in proportion to the
population, and the whole of it in a milder form,
than in any other part of the world, civilized or
uncivilized. For what is the 7i(mie of a thing, apart
from its essential attributes ? Slavery, fairly defined,
is the unequal and unjust depression of man in re-
lation to his fellow man, as the result of an artifi-
cial state of society, which has been erected, and is
maintained for the advantage of the few, and to the
disadvantage of the many. The degree of depres-
sion, and the amount o^ oppression, are accidental.
Both are greater in any other part of the world that
can be named, beyond the bounds of the United
States, than in the slave States of the South — if,
perhaps, we except the North American British
Provinces — now being invaded on Abolition prin-

If the Abolitionists are resolved to interfere with
the domestic condition of other States for the relief
of the oppressed, and cannot otherwise satisfy their
consciences, let them go to England, to Ireland, and


to the British manufactories. We assure them, they
will find work enough there, and enough of slavery
too, as that particular firm of evil is especially to
their taste. Let them go to the Continent of Eu-
rope, and they will find enough of it any where in
that field — more especially in Italy, in Spain and
Portugal, in Hungary, in Poland, and above all, in
Russia. Let them go to the tribes and nations that
border on the shores of the Mediterranean ; let
them penetrate into Northern, Southern, and East-
ern Asia ; it is all a ripe field for their sickle, or if
they like it better, for their sword — for it will no
doubt soon come to that. Let them so to Africa —
which their sympathies would naturally lead them
to first — and there, independent of the temptations
and effects of the slave traffic, as all travellers in-
form us, they will find slavery in such amount, and
in forms of such horrid and murderous cruelty, as
to show the fields of its abode in the Southern States
a paradise in comparison. There they will see,
that it is better to be a slave in America, than a
free man in Africa, w^ithout justif3^ing slavery ; and
that the best conditions of African barbarism could
never be envied by the worst of American slavery,
if both w^ere equally well known to the parties, ha-
ving their option between the two. There they
might learn, that God, in his high and inscrutable
providence, can bring good out of evil, and that, by
the lights of American civilization, and the bless-
ings of American Christianity, thrown out upon
Africa from these shores, that long suffering, abu-
sed, and " pealed'' race, may yet hope to receive
some indemnification for their bleeding wrongs.
But do the Abolitionists reply, " that if we enter


on the fields of Europe, or of any other countrieg^
for political action, by any efficient force, to rescue
the oppressed, we shall lose our heads." That, in-
deed, may be a wise thought. Or, " if we attempt
it by secret operations, and by emissions of the
press, clandestinely introduced, we shall embroil
our country in a foreign war." There is little doubt
of that. Or, " if we organize a political machinery
at home, industriously occupying years of prepara-
tion for descent, waiting for an opportunity, and it
is known that our force is likely to tell with efiect,
when the time of affsressive action shall arrive, it
will produce the same result, unless our own Go-
vernment shall interpose, and suppress our move-
ment." This, too, is doubtless a fair conclusion.
But, let it be remembered, that a foreign war is in-
finitely less to be dreaded, than a domestic and ci-
vil one ; and that it is no less certain, if the Aboli-
tion movement is not suppressed, we must have the
last. The cases are parallel : as a foreign Nation
could not endure such interference, neither can the
slave States of the South. There is as valid and
justifiable a right of interference in one case, as in
the other, and an equal provocation for resort to
iarms, if the General Government should not inter-
pose its authority, and arrest the movement,;




We live in an age of romantic sympathy and
religious sentimentalism. There is a charity that
prefers a remote object, to one that is near. A blmd
beggar, with every appearance of want and
wretchedness, sits daily by the way side, to ask
alms. Floods of population swim along, and now
and then he gets a penny ; but no body stops to ask
him of his misery, or sympathize with his woes.
He is a solitary, uncheered bemg during the day,
in the midst of a busy, moving, and apparently
happy world ; and as night comes on, he feels
his way to his wretched hovel, if he has one, and
lies down in rags and filth, to sleep as he can. He
may, or may not, have some one to comfort him
there ; but the world never asks. In every crowded
population there are hundreds of poor and
wretched beings, whose wants are fruitful of sorrow,
and whose pains are without relief. They live in,
misery, and die without comfort ; and that, too,
while surrounded with an affluence that knows not
how to dissipate its treasures. The sound of the
light steps of the happy is heard in the street, but they
enter not the uninviting abode to inquire into the
wants of its tenants ; the carriages of the wealthy
Toll onward ; but the suflering poor, so near at
hand, are not remembered. Even if you apply


to the public in their behalf, you will chance to re-
ceive for answer, " they are worthy of their doom,
and are only reaping the wages of their sins. We
have known them well, and generally speaking,
there is little merit, and a slender reward, in re-
lieving such objects."

But, form a Society of these very persons, and
send out an Agent to the Antipodes to hunt up the
misery that may be found there, to report in due
form on precisely the same cases of distress, or on
such, perhaps, as are not half so worthy of pity, and
the tear of sympathy will be seen trickling down
the cheek of the sentimentalist, as he reads the
printed document in his easy chair, or listens to
the fervid eloquence of the platform orator, who
feels the same pleasure in telling the story which
his hearers do in receiving it. " ' Tis distance
lends enchantment," and because these persons
can luxuriate in the indulgence of their benevolence
in agreeable circumstances, without being com-
pelled to come in actual contact with the squalid
and disgusting forms of misery ; or like Howard, to
sacrifice home and comfort to look it up, and ad-
minister consolation at the expense of ease and
better society.

To all this we have no objection. Even if the
statements are exaggerated, and the pictures highly
colored ; though the Agents engaged in this work
know well, that their support^ depends on the
interest they create ; though there is not half the
good accomplished that was dreamt of, or is
supposed ; nay, though all the fruits of this sym-
pathy were expended on the way to its objects,
an d in sustaining this machinery, still the world is


made better, and the compensation is abundant,
though nothing^ else be gained, but the good and
kind feeUng it has kindled up at home. It is even
better, that they who will not relieve the miserable
objects that he at their doors, or perish in the
streets, or starve in tlie comfortless abodes of their
own city or town, should have some small pit-
tances of their abundance drawn out by the work-
ings of a romantic sympathy for the remotest
objects, than that they should do nothing at all.
If they feel not for the wretched before their eyes,
it is yet good that they can be made to feel for
those who are far off.

The Christian missions of the age, and all
purely benevolent enterprises, which meddle not
with the political structures of society, are most
worthy of patronage and support, under a suitable
organization. However they may, in some de-
gree, fall under these strictures, our remarks are
only an echo of practical and faithful missionaries,
who have themselves written largely on the romance
of Missions, and laboured to chasten the views
and expectations of contributors to the cause, and
to establish the work on the basis of sound Christian
principle. As we have before intimated, the Aboli-
tion movement is a wandering star, an eccentric
and fiery orb, that has broken loose from the Reli-
gious and Benevolent Society system, with all its
armor on, and betrayed and violated the principles
of that system, by plunging into the batde field of
political strife, and running riot in a wild and mad
encounter with the political interests of mankind.
It is a comet out of place, thrown olT from its own
sphere by the violence of its centrifusial action, and

K 2


comes dashing on its way into a family of pla-
netary worlds, whose orderly course around a
common centre it threatens to throw into confusion,
and is likely to plunge full sweep on that great
central orb which gives us light and heat, and
which, we hope and pray, will be able to sustain
the shock without injury.

The romance of Abolitionism is well illustrated
in the history of that crusade which roused all
Europe, and led forth its armies upon the plains
of Western Asia against the infidels, to rescue "the
Holy City" from " the abomination of desolation ;"
and we will venture to say, that the great majority
of Abolitionists are equally and no more wise, in
the expedition to which they are lending their aid.
They know just as much of the real state of things
in the slave-holding States, and seem to be
equally blind to the romantic character of the en-

Let it be always understood, that we make no
controversy with the Abolitionists, as to the right
or wrong of slavery, in this country or any other,
or in any case whatever. For in all cases, we pre-

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Online LibraryCalvin ColtonAbolition a sedition. By a northern man → online text (page 7 of 13)