Horace Mann.

Speech of Hon. Horace Mann, of Massachusetts, on the institution of slavery online

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I. HORACE MI, OF MASSACHUSETTS.



THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY.



Representatives, August LI



The House being in Committee of the Whole
en the state of the Union —
Mr. MANX said:

Mr. Chairman : On former rceasions, T have
expressed myself so much at h ngth on the re-
lations which the free States are made to bear
to slavery, that I did not propose at this ses-
sion to present any further views upon that
subject. But the ban which the bite Haiti-
more Conventions have haughtily proclaimed
against bee discussion ; the recent, though, as
I believe it will be found, the temporary silen-
cing of my friend, Mr. Sumner, at the other
end of this Capitol, who has long desired to
speak, and the still later choking down of the
gentleman from Connecticut, [Mr. Cleve-
land,] on this floor, have induced me to recon-
sider and to change my determination. 1 am
willing to be reasoned with, and always grate-
ful, when, for good cause. I am convinced ; but
when an attempt is made to take from mo all
option in regard to my exercise of a clear
right, I find a sufficient motive for exercising
that right in the mere act of disobedience.

I must begin by taking a brief retrospect.
The war against Mexico was waged to rob
that sister Republic of her free territory, for
the sake of widening the domain and confirm-
ing the despotism ol slavery. On the subject
of the robbery the country w:^ divided into
Whigs and Democrats. On the wicked uses
to which the territory robbed was to bo not.
it was divided into North an 1 ^ ■'■ ■ Four-

n out of the fiftoen. Northern States passed

dons, most of them unanimously, or

nearly so, in favor of excluding slavery by

from whatever territory we n li

South did not then ask for any

' >n to extend slavery th< -v

he doctrine of the great

te North demanded Legis-

lali Everybody at once for-



that this question would be involved in the
then next Presidential election. It wM re-
markable, and certainly the 'Historian will re-
member it. that no leading man of the South
came out in favor of the Northern doctrine ;
for the principles of universal liberty are |o
congenial to the human heart, that it is diffi-
cult to conceive of five or six millions of peo-
ple, in any age or country of the world, with-
out a single man among them ready to assume
the championship bf freedom. It is still more
remarkable that any Northern man should
have ventured to espouse the cause of slavery.
One. however, was found, capable of doing it
It was strange that he should have been of
New England lineage. It was thrice strange,
that a man educated, enriched, honored, by a
people who had themselves been rescued from
all the curses of slavery, and blessed with all
the exuberant blessings of freedom, by the Or-
dinance of 1787. should have proposed to open
half a continent to all the curses he and his
people had escaped, and to shut it from all the
blessings he and they had enjoyed. Hut such
a man was found. General C\s S thougl
basely of his party at the North, that he sup-
posed he could carry them against slavery-re-
striction. If so, then their union with the
pro-slavery South would make a triumphant
majority; and hence the well-known Nichol-
son letter. But that letter recoiled upon him,
and in the canvass »f 1848 overthrew him.
T>. original temptation, however, still re-
mained, and acted with increased f >rce. The
South stood firm. They were a compact body
of Abolitionists, though the thing they desired
to abolish was human freedom. The si 1
out plainly, and offered their support and their
votes to the Northern man. Whig i
erat, wbo would most thori ughly bend or
-°ak himself to their purposes. Under tie
'General Cass, many of tl I 1



lea a



party



a lured, and thev 'le-erted. But



■TTI



M



until the 7th of March, 1850, no Northern more, milting pro-slavery letters and speeches
Whig yielded to their enticements. On that -wherever he went. Certainly the reason
day, however, Mr. Webster, in the Senate of why any of the above-named parties did not



the United States, offered to abandon the Ordi-
nance of 1787 — then known as the "Wilmot
Proviso/' He offered to give an additional
slave State to Texas beyond w r hat she could
claim under the unconstitutional resolutions
of annexation. He offered to support, "to the
fullest extent," that most atrocious Fugitive
Slave bill, then before the Senate, by which all
custom-house officers, and the seventeen thou-



get a nomination at Baltimore, was not be-
cause of what the law calls laches, or " want
of reasonable diligence" on their part.

I come now to the Baltimore Conventions
themselves, which were held in June last.
Every one knows that the great question of
human slavery had a controlling influence in
those bodies, and determined their results.
With a vast majority of their members, pro-



sand postmasters of the United States, were to slavery or anti-slavery was the one overmaster-



be made judges, and to be invested with power
over human liberty, and to have, each one of
them, not local, but unlimited jurisdiction
throughout the United States; and he offered
to give $200,000,000 to fortify and perpetuate
the institution of slavery, by removing from



w motive and end. In the Democratic Con-
vention, the pro-slavery sentiment was nearly
unanimous. Its members had been sold into
that perdition by the lust of money or the am-
bition for office. Yet even they were held in
check by the apprehended thunders of the



the Southern States the dreaded element of voice of the people behind them. If they did



the free colored population. Two hundred
millions of dollars — a profusion and a prodi-
gality magnificently Websterian ! I am here
only referring to facts which, as everybody
knows, have become history.

Here, then, we see that two conspicuous
leaders of the Northern Democrats and Whigs
planted themselves upon Southern ground.
When the race for the Presidency consisted in
adhesion to the Slave Power alone, it was not



not recoil from the crime, they feared its pun-
ishment. In the Whig Convention, the men
who were ready to sacrifice honor, duty, reli-
gion, to the demands of slavery, were a large
majority, and might have nominated their
most ultra pro-slavery candidate on the first
ballot. They could have effected this just as
easily as they effected their pro-slavery organi-
zation, and appointed a committee on creden-
tials who excluded anti-slavery men, and



to be expected that the competitors would be committee on resolutions who accepted a



few. Mr. Buchanan forthwith caused it to
be understood, that, on his part, he was will-
ing to run the line of 36 deg. 30 min. — the
Missouri Compromise line, so-called — through
to the Pacific ocean, and surrender to slavery
all upon its southern side. Mr. Dallas, late
Vice President under Mr. Polk, in his letter to
Mr. Bryan, of Texas, went further, and pro-



Southern platform, prepared for them before-
hand by Southern hands. But these Bel«haz-
zars, too, like him of old, saw the handwriting
upon the wall, aud they knew that, with such
a candidate, they were doomed to utter and
remorseless defeat before the people. In both
Conventions, however, the spirit of slavery was
so strong and so badly brave, as to carry the



posed to incorporate the Compromise measures resolutions I am about to read. The Demo-



and the Fugitive Slave Law itself, into the
Constitution, so as to put their repeal beyond
the power of a Northern majority. Senator
Douglas followed. He sugared his pill. He
told the South, that we have cotton lands, and
rice lands, and tobacco lands enough ; but
alas! said he, we want more lands for sugar;
by which the South perfectly understood that
if they would make him President, the annex-
ation of Cuba should be their reward. This
is the same gentleman who has lately said, in
a secret session of the Senate, that if the Sand-
wich Islands should bo annexed to this country,
and a question should arise about excluding



cratic Convention resolved to

" — abide by and adhere to a faithful oxecution of
the acts known as the Compromise measures, settled
by the last Congress — the act for reclaiming fugitive
slaves from service or labor included."

And further, they

" Resolved, That the Democratic party will resist
all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it. the
agitation of the slavery question, under whatever
shape or color the attempt may be made."

And the Whig Convention

" Resolved, That the series of acts of the Thirty-
first Congress, commonly known as the Compromise
or adjustment, (the act for the recovery of fugitives
from labor included,) are received and acquiesced in



slavery from them by law. he would vote against by tu. Whi^s of the United States, as a final settle
it During all this time affairs were ripen- m °?^ *9 P^r^w^ubsfance, of the subjects t<
. Z , S D ,,- • mt t rm - m,. TT;il which they relate. * * " And we dom-ccnte a

in°- for the Baltimore nominations. Mr. Fill-
more offered to the South the Army and Navy,
to catch a poor fugitive, where only a consta-



ble's posse was needed. Mr. Webster trumped
up false treasons by scores against Northern

Anti-Slavery men. The President travel'^ ^uussuhjhoii provide a

North and South, making speeches red'f nt °f freedom of speech or ot the part ' Why se-

aled still cure this freedom in the organic law, if the



to
„ all
further agitation of the questions thus settled, as dan-
gerous to our peace, and will discouatonance all ef-
forts to continue or renew such agitation, when
wherever, or however made."

.Now, what an outrage is this ! Does not our
Constitution provide against ' abridging the



pro slavery. The Secretary tr*



tyranny of a social law can abolish it? Of what gloom and bondage of the dark ages of the



value is that provision in the Constitution,
which secures the free exercise of religion, if
social intolerance and bigotry, acting in an un-
legalized way, can destroy it ? Yet, here are
two Conventions, utterly unknown to any of
our Constitutions, whether State or National,
. invested with no powers. Legislative, Judicial,
or Executive, coming together for a day, and
then scattered and sunk in individual obscuri-
•• ty; yet lifting thsir pigmy voices against the
mightiest impulses of the human heart, against
history and providence, against the fiat and the
Spirit of God himself; resolving that mankind
shall be dumb in regard to the greatest of hu-
man wrongs ; und resolving, also, that a law
passed by a Republican Government, yet as
barbarous and tyrannical as was ever made by
any despotism, shall lie consecrated in its wick-
edness, and remain eternal.

Two Baltimore Conventions, assuming to
quench the eternal spirit of liberty — that spirit
which was a part of the inspiration of the
prophets of old, when they commanded the ty-
rants of the earth to -undo the heavy burdens
and let the oppressed go free;" that spirit
which gave all its heroism and splendor to the
classic land of Greece, and made its memories
immortal: that spirit which gave to Rome its
colossal proportions of physical and intellectual
grandeur; that spirit which, in the darkest
night of the worlds history, climbed Alpine
heights and sheltered itself in the fastnesses of
Alpine mountains, inaccessible to tyrants;
which, at another time, found protection with-
in the dykes of Holland, barring out the rage
of the ocean, and the more remorseless rage of
despotic men : that spirit which has given to
England, and to English history, all their un-
disputed claims to renown and to the gratitude
of mankind, and which, when persecuted and
driven from England, crossed the Atlantic,
spread itself over this open continent, and hav-
ing been nursed by more than two hundred
years of struggle and discipline, now bids defi-
ance to the world — this Godlike spirit of liber-
ty, immortal, invulnerable, and indestructible,
two ephemeral Baltimore Conventions under-
take to ban! Xerxes chaining the Hellespont
was wisdom personified compared with them ;
aye, it would be too dignified and honorable
an illustration to compare them to two old
male Mrs. Partingtons, mopping out the At-
lantic!

Why did not these insane men propose to do
something which is at least conceivable ? Why
did they not propose to turn back the order of
physical events, rather than to violate the more
infrangible and irresistible laws of moral pro-
gress? Why did they not order the oak back
into the acorn, or the bird back into its shell,
or the earth itself back into its first geological
epoch, rather than to order the enfranchised
spirit of the niueteenth century back into the



world ? Why did they not lift up the wand of
their arrogance and audacity towards Arcturus
and the Pleiades, and attempt to move round
the constellations of the heavens as you would
move round the hands on the dial-plate of a
clock? Such hallucinations would be at least
within the limits of human conception, and
would therefore be free from the folly and
atheism of attempting to stifle the voice of
freemen discussing freedom.

Sir, to resolve that the slavery question shall
be discussed nevermore, is to resolve the mem-
ories of all the heroes, and martyrs, and saints,
whose names make all the bright pages of
human history, into eternal oblivion. It is to
resolve the history of the American Revolution.
and of all its actors, into forgetfuhaess. It is to
resolve the noblest faculties and aspirations of
the human soul into non-existence. Under any
fail and legitimate construction of such a re-
solve, it embraces the whole meaning and force
of that infamously celebrated decree of the
French Convention, that -There is no God. y
I do not say this by way of rhetorical embel-
lishment, or to impart greater emphasis to a
period. I say it because it is literally and
strictly true; for the just and benevolent God
who sits upon the throne of the Universe must
Himself be silenced, before the cry against the
cruelty and injustice of slavery can be quelled.
Let us see, for a moment, what is the nature
of the burden these Baltimore Conventions
have taken upon themselves. By forbidding us
to speak upon a given subject, they compel us
to examine that subject, and see if duty does
not require us to speak upon it. They leave us
no option : and if the discussion shall prove un-
palatable, they may thank themselves for pro-
voking it. Let me inquire, then, whether it be
not demonstrable that the relation of slavery
between man and man comprehends, perpetu-
ates, multiplies, and aggravates, all forms of
crime which it is possible for a human being
to commit. Is the stealing, even of a shilling^
a crime ? Slavery steals all that man can call
his own ; and is not the whole greater than a
part? Is robbery, which is defined to be the
taking of any part of a man's goods, "from his
person, or in his presence, against his will, by
violence, or putting him in fear," a crime?
Slavery answers the exact definition of the
law books; for it is by violence and by putting
in bodily fear that a master ravishes from his
slave all his earnings, and all his ability to
earn, from birth till death. And again, I say,
is not the whole greater than a part ?* Is the
destruction of any one man's house by fire a
crime? How much greater the crime of pre-
venting millions of men from having a house

* President Edwards said: "While vou hold ne-
gvoc* in slavery vou do exceeding wrong, and that in
a highoi degree than if you committed common. job-
bery or theft »



they can call their own? Is concubinage a
crime ? In this Union, all the adult portion of
more than three millions of people are now
forced to live in a state of concubinage. Is it
a crime to abandon innocent females to the
lusts of guilty men, without the slightest pro-
tection of law ? In this country, a million and
a half of females constantly are so abandoned,
and the rearing of dark-skinned beauties for
the harems of republican sultans; is a systema-
tized and legalized business. Is it a crime to
break asunder all the ties of human affection,
to tear children from the arms of their parents,
and parents from each other? There is no
conjugal or parental or filial affection among
more than three millions of people in this land
which is sacred from such violation. Is it a
crime to let murder and all other offences go
unpunished f There is no form of crime which
a white man may not commit against a slave
with entire impunity, if he will take the pre-
caution to let none but slaves witness it. The
darkening of the intellect, the shrouding of a
soul in the gloom of ignorance, the forbidding
of a spirit which God made in His own image
to commune with its Maker, is _ more than a
common crime— it is sacrilege— it is the sacri-
lege of sacrileges. It is a crime which no other
nation on this earth— civilized, heathen, or
barbarian— ever committed to the extent that
it is committed here. And yet this locking of
the temple of knowledge against a whole race,
this drawing of an impenetrable veil between
the soul of man and his Maker, this rebellion
against all that God has done to reveal Him-
self to His offspring through the works of na-
ture and the revelations of His providence, is
enacted into laws, guarded by terrible penal-
,il»s, and administered by men who call thein-
.' selves Christians, as though Jesus Christ could
have subscribed or executed such laws. It is
a crime unspeakable to deprive men Oi the
Gospel M& of freedom to interpret it ; but the
slave code ,does this, by withholding letters
from the slave, and thus postpones the true
enfranchisement and salvation of his soul to
another life, when he can no longer be of any
use to his earthly master. Would it be a
crime to practice some demoniac art, by which
the growth of body and limbs should be arrest-
ed in childhood, and the victims should be left
with only infantile powers to conteud with
cold, nakedness, hunger, and all the hosts of
min* Then it is an infinitely greater crime
to inflict weakness and ignorance upon those
SoriouB faculties of the mind, by which alone
its possessor can solve the mighty problems of
future destiny, of otermty, and ot the souls
weal or woe/ I repeat, then, that the worst
forms of all the crimes which a human being
can eommit— theft, robbery, murder, adu.tevy,
ScUt sacrilege, and whatever else Acre is
Edicts wide-wasting ruin W* Mjeg*
and brings the souk of men * petition tne



word slavery is the synonym of them all. Ana-
lyze slavery, and you will find its ingredients
to consist of every crime. Define any crime,
and you will find it to be incorporated in sla-
very, and aggravated by it.

As the complex and infinite meaning of the
word God cannot be adequately understood,
until you analyze it, and divide and subdivide
it, and give to it the thousand names of om-
nipotence, and omniscience, and omnipresence,
of infinite justice, and holiness, and benevo-
lence, of all sanctities, and verities, and benig-
nities, of all energies and beauties, of all wis-
dom and all law; so when you penetrate and
lay open the infinite meaning of the word Sla-
very, it resolves itself into all crimes and all
cruelties, all debasements and all horrors. The
telescope of the astronomer resolves the star-
dust of the universe into refulgent systems that
glorify their Maker ; the telescope of the mor-
alist resolves the Tartarean cloud of slavery
into all the impieties and wickednesses that de-
form humanity.

Now. between these two great antagonisms,
between God and the Right on one side, and
Slavery and the Wrong on the other, these two
Baltimore Conventions have chosen the latter.
They have said to Evil, be thou my Good,
They have voted to annul God's laws. They
have resolved that discussions on the great
question of human freedom, which involves the
whole question of free agency and human ac-
countability, and the entire plan and order of
the Divine government, shall be silenced.

So much for the intrinsic nature of slavery,
which the Baltimore Conventions have wedded
as their bride. Now let us look at some of the
collateral wrongs, the self-stultification and
atheism, for which slavery in this country is
responsible, and which those Conventions,
therefore, have sanctioned and ratified, and de-
clared their purpose to continue.

When a nation is born into the world, pos- ;
sessing the attributes and prerogatives of na-
tionality, it is the moral duty of existing na-
tions to welcome it into the brotherhood of the
human family. Such recognition of a new
sovereignty tends to increase commerce, to
forefend war, and to diffuse the blessings of
knowledge, science, and the arts. It becomes,
therefore, a duty. Yet, what is the posture in
which this Government stands to Liberia and
Hayti? Great Britain, with France, Prussia,
and other continental nations, has acknowl-
edged their existence. We refuse, and stand
aloof. And this for no other reason than to
gratify a colorophobia, which dreads equity as
the hydrophobia docs water. Writers on na-
tional law call nations a moral entity. We
find color in a moral entity, and repudiate its
claims. Contrast the alacrity of this Govern- j
ment in recognising slaveholding Texas, with
its utter refusal, for a quarter of a century in
one case, and for half a century in the other



to recognise the Free Soil Governments of Li-
beria and Hayti. This is one of the collateral
wrongs growing out of the repugnance of sla-
very to do justice to the colored man any-
where; and the taint of this moral disease at
the South spreads its infection over tlie North.
Mark a great Bign and proof of depravation
in tho public intelli ct; originating in the same
prolific source of wrong. The Ma-;.])
argument has I sen put forth, that God
ordained and instituted African slavery am
us for the ultimate and consequential purpose
of carrying civilization and Chribtianity 'into
Africa. Not only have the logic of the pi !i-
tiuian and the ethics of the moralist heen cor-
rupted into this falsity, hut even the divine.
with the preservative power of the Gospel of
Jesus Christ, in Ins hands, baa endeavored to
reconcile our people to tlie crimes and the
curses of slavery by tins impious argument.
They maintain that God has looked with, com-
placency upon all the atrocities of the African
slave trade: that the groans and agonic.- -
Middle Passage have ascended as a sweet-
smelling savor before His throne; that He has
seen with approval, within the last three cen-
turies, forty millions of native Africans — ye;-,
sir, forty millions, for that is the estimated
number — almost douhle the entire population
of this country, ami more than one-third more
than the present population of Great Britain
and Ireland put together — of native Africans,
torn from their homes and driven through
gates of lire and realms of torture, to bondage
and to death : that, during all this period. He
has looked with delight upon the most fright-
ful forms of war, the pillage and conflagration
of cities, and wholesale murder, and man-steal-
ing worse than murder, not only raging along
the eastern and the western shores of that de-
voted continent, but at times extending their
ravages and havoc twelve or thirteen hundred

miles inland; and that His benign providence and crimes of civilization rpon that bar
is still fulfilled by the successful prosecution of stock. The sins of the white races crea
the slave trade; though for every thousand
human victims in Africa, it is estimated that
only three hundred finally reach their earth-
born hell of Cuban or Brazilian sugar or cotton
fields. Now, that God sent out slaves from
Africa to America, at this inconceivable cost of
crime on the one hand, and of suffering on the
other: that His providence has raised up hosts
of fiends in the shape of men. century after cen-
tury, for the roundabout purpose of carrying
Christianity and civilization into Africa, in
some remote age. Ave know not when: th ; s is


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Online LibraryHorace MannSpeech of Hon. Horace Mann, of Massachusetts, on the institution of slavery → online text (page 1 of 6)