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Title: Dissertation on Slavery - With a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it, in the - State of Virginia
Author: Tucker, St. George, 1828-1862
Language: English
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Transcriber's note: Original spelling has been maintained and not
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were originally printed as sidenotes have been set in brackets here and
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sentences are indicated by =equal signs=.



_Slavery not only violates the Laws of Nature, and of civil Society, it
also wounds the best Forms of Government: in a Democracy, where all Men
are equal, Slavery is contrary to the Spirit of the Constitution.



_General Assembly of Virginia_,

To whom it belongs to decide upon the expediency and practicability of a
plan for the _gradual abolition_ of _Slavery_ in this commonwealth,

The following pages are most respectfully submitted and inscribed,


_Williamsburg, in Virginia, May 20, 1796._


_The following pages form a part of a course of Lectures on Law and
Police, delivered in the University of William and Mary, in this
commonwealth. The Author considering the Abolition of Slavery in this
State, as an object of the first importance, not only to our moral
character and domestic peace, but even to our political salvation; and
being persuaded that the accomplishment of so momentous and desirable an
undertaking will in great measure depend upon the early adoption of some
plan for that purpose, with diffidence submits to the consideration of
his countrymen his ideas on a subject of such consequence. He flatters
himself that the plan he ventures to suggest, is liable to fewer
objections than most others that have been submitted to the
consideration of the public, as it will be attended with a gradual
change of condition in the blacks, and cannot possibly affect the
interest either of =creditors=, or any other description of persons of
the =present generation=: and posterity he makes no doubt will feel
themselves relieved from a perilous and grievous burden by the timely
adoption of a plan, whose operation may be felt by them, before they are
borne down by a weight which threatens destruction to our happiness both
public and private._

====>The following ADDITIONAL NOTES have been received from the Author
since the body of this work was printed off.

_In page 20, after the word =arms=, in line 5, read this note:_

This was the case under the laws of the state; but the Act of 2. Cong.
c. 33. for establishing an uniform militia throughout the United States,
seems to have excluded all but free white men from bearing arms in the

_To the word =slave=, page 47, line 14, add the following note:_

It may not be improper here to note, that the first congress of the
United States, at their third session, Dec. 1793, passed an act to
prohibit the carrying on the slave trade from the United States to any
foreign place or country; the provisions of which seem well calculated
to restrain the citizens of united America from embarking in so infamous
a traffick.


In the preceding Enquiry[1] into the absolute rights of the citizens of
united America, we must not be understood as if those rights were
equally and universally the privilege of all the inhabitants of the
United States, or even of all those, who may challenge this land of
freedom as their native country. Among the blessings which the Almighty
hath showered down on these states, there is a large portion of the
bitterest draught that ever flowed from the cup of affliction. Whilst
America hath been the land of promise to Europeans, and their
descendants, it hath been the vale of death to millions of the wretched
sons of Africa. The genial light of liberty, which hath here shone with
unrivalled lustre on the former, hath yielded no comfort to the latter,
but to them hath proved a pillar of darkness, whilst it hath conducted
the former to the most enviable state of human existence. Whilst we were
offering up vows at the shrine of Liberty, and sacrificing hecatombs
upon her altars; whilst we swore irreconcilable hostility to her
enemies, and hurled defiance in their faces; whilst we adjured the God
of Hosts to witness our resolution to live free, or die, and imprecated
curses on their heads who refused to unite with us in establishing the
empire of freedom; we were imposing upon our fellow men, who differ in
complexion from us, a _slavery_, ten thousand times more cruel than the
utmost extremity of those grievances and oppressions, of which we
complained. Such are the inconsistencies of human nature; such the
blindness of those who pluck not the beam out of their own eyes, whilst
they can espy a moat, in the eyes of their brother; such that partial
system of morality which confines rights and injuries, to particular
complexions; such the effect of that self-love which justifies, or
condemns, not according to principle, but to the agent. Had we turned
our eyes inwardly when we supplicated the Father of Mercies to aid the
injured and oppressed; when we invoked the Author of Righteousness to
attest the purity of our motives, and the justice of our cause;[2] and
implored the God of Battles to aid our exertions in its defence, should
we not have stood more self convicted than the contrite publican! Should
we not have left our gift upon the altar, that we might be first
reconciled to our brethren whom we held in bondage? Should we not have
loosed their chains, and broken their fetters? Or if the difficulties
and dangers of such an experiment prohibited the attempt during the
convulsions of a revolution, is it not our duty to embrace the first
moment of constitutional health and vigour, to effectuate so desirable
an object, and to remove from us a stigma, with which our enemies will
never fail to upbraid us, nor our consciences to reproach us? To form a
just estimate of this obligation, to demonstrate the incompatibility of
a state of slavery with the principles of our government, and of that
revolution upon which it is founded, and to elucidate the practicability
of its total, though gradual, abolition, it will be proper to consider
the nature of slavery, its properties, attendants, and consequences in
general; its rise, progress, and present state not only in this
commonwealth, but in such of our sister states as have either perfected,
or commenced the great work of its extirpation; with the means they have
adopted to effect it, and those which the circumstances and situation of
our country may render it most expedient for us to pursue, for the
attainment of the same noble and important end.[3]

[Footnote 1: The subject of a preceding Lecture, with which the present
was immediately connected, was, An Enquiry into the Rights of Persons,
as Citizens of the United States of America.]

[Footnote 2: The American standard, at the commencement of those
hostilities which terminated in the revolution, had these words upon

[Footnote 3: The Author here takes the liberty of making his
acknowledgments to the reverend Jeremiah Belknap, D. D. of Boston, and
to Zephaniah Swift, Esq. representative in congress from Connecticut,
for their obliging communications; he hath occasionally made use of them
in several parts of this Lecture, where he may have omitted referring to

According to Justinian [Lib. 1. Tit. 2.], the first general division of
persons, in respect to their rights, is into freemen and slaves. It is
equally the glory and the happiness of that country from which the
citizens of the United States derive their origin, that the traces of
slavery, such as at present exists in several of the United States, are
there utterly extinguished. It is not my design to enter into a minute
enquiry whether it ever had existence there, nor to compare the
situation of villeins, during the existence of pure villenage, with that
of modern domestic slaves. The records of those times, at least, such as
have reached this quarter of the globe, are too few to throw a
satisfactory light on the subject. Suffice it that our ancestors
migrating hither brought not with them any prototype of that slavery
which hath been established among us. The first introduction of it into
Virginia was by the arrival of a Dutch ship from the coast of Africa
having _twenty_ Negroes on board, who were sold here in the year 1620
[Stith 182.]. In the year 1638 we find them in Massachusetts.[4] They
were introduced into Connecticut soon after the settlement of that
colony; that is to say, about the same period.[5] Thus early had our
forefathers sown the seeds of an evil, which, like a leprosy, hath
descended upon their posterity with accumulated rancour, visiting the
sins of the fathers upon succeeding generations.--The climate of the
northern states less favourable to the constitution of the natives of
Africa [Dr. Belknap. Zephan. Swift.], than the southern, proved alike
unfavourable to their propagation, and to the increase of their numbers
by importations. As the southern colonies advanced in population, not
only importations increased there, but Nature herself, under a climate
more congenial to the African constitution, assisted in multiplying the
blacks in those parts, no less than in diminishing their numbers in the
more rigorous climates of the north; this influence of climate moreover
contributed extremely to increase or diminish the value of the slave to
the purchasers, in the different colonies. White labourers, whose
constitutions were better adapted to the severe winters of the New
England colonies, were there found to be preferable to the Negroes [Dr.
Belknap. Zephan. Swift.], who, accustomed to the influence of an ardent
sun, became almost torpid in those countries, not less adapted to give
vigour to their laborious exercises, than unfavourable to the
multiplication of their species; in those colonies, where the winters
were not only milder, and of shorter duration, but succeeded by an
intense summer heat, as invigorating to the African, as debilitating to
the European constitution, the Negroes were not barely more capable of
performing labour than the Europeans, or their descendants, but the
multiplication of the species was at least equal; and, where they met
with humane treatment, perhaps greater than among the whites. The
purchaser therefore calculated not upon the value of the labour of his
slave only, but, if a female, he regarded her as "the fruitful mother of
an hundred more:" and many of these unfortunate people have there been
in this state, whose descendants even in the compass of two or three
generations have gone near to realize the calculation.--The great
increase of slavery in the southern, in proportion to the northern
states in the union, is therefore not attributable, _solely_, to the
effect of sentiment, but to natural causes; as well as those
considerations of profit, which have, perhaps, an equal influence over
the conduct of mankind in general, in whatever country, or under
whatever climate their destiny hath placed them. What else but
considerations of this nature could have influenced the merchants of the
freest nation, at that time in the world, to embark in so nefarious a
traffic, as that of the human race, attended, as the African slave trade
has been, with the most atrocious aggravations of cruelty, perfidy, and
intrigues, the objects of which have been the perpetual fomentation of
predatory and intestine wars? What, but similar considerations, could
prevail on the government of the same country, even in these days, to
patronize a commerce so diametrically opposite to the generally received
maxims of that government. It is to the operation of these
considerations in the parent country, not less than to their influence
in the colonies, that the rise, increase, and continuance of slavery in
those British colonies which now constitute united America, are to be
attributed, as I shall endeavour to shew in the course of the present
enquiry. It is now time to enquire into the nature of slavery, in
general, and take a view of its consequences, and attendants in this
commonwealth, in particular.

[Footnote 4: Dr. Belknap's answers to St. G. T.'s queries.]

[Footnote 5: Letter from Zephaniah Swift to St. G. T.]

Slavery, says a well informed writer [Hargrave's case of Negroe
Somerset.] on the subject, has been attended with circumstances so
various in different countries, as to render it difficult to give a
general definition of it. Justinian calls it a constitution of the law
of nations, by which one man is made subject to another, contrary to
nature [Lib. 1. Tit. 3. Sect. 2.]. Grotius describes it to be an
obligation to serve another for life, in consideration of diet, and
other common necessaries [Lib. 2. c. 5. Sect. 27]. Dr. Rutherforth,
rejecting this definition, informs us, that perfect slavery is an
obligation to be directed by another in all one's actions [Lib. 1. c.
20. pa. 474.]. Baron Montesquieu defines it to be the establishment of a
right, which gives one man such a power over another, as renders him
absolute master over his life and fortune [Lib. 15. c. 1.]. These
definitions appear not to embrace the subject fully, since they respect
the condition of the slave, in regard to his _master_, only, and not in
regard to the _state_, as well as the _master_. The author last
mentioned observes, that the constitution of a state may be free, and
the subject not so. The subject free, and not the constitution of the
state [Lib. 12. c. 1.]. Pursuing this idea, instead of attempting a
general definition of slavery; I shall, by considering it under a
threefold aspect, endeavour to give a just idea of its nature.

I. When a nation is, from any external cause, deprived of the right of
being governed by its own laws, only, such a nation may be considered as
in a state of _political slavery_. Such is the state of conquered
countries, and generally, of colonies, and other dependant governments.
Such was the state of united America before the revolution. In this case
the personal rights of the subject may be so far secured by wholesome
laws, as that the individual may be esteemed free, whilst the state is
subject to a higher power: this subjection of one nation, or people, to
the will of another, constitutes the first species of slavery, which, in
order to distinguish it from the other two, I have called political;
inasmuch as it exists only in respect to the governments, and not to the
individuals of the two countries. Of this it is not our business to
speak, at present.

II. Civil liberty being, no other than natural liberty so far restrained
by human laws, and no farther, as is necessary and expedient for the
general advantage of the public [Blackstone's Com. c. 125], whenever
that liberty is, by the laws of the state, further restrained than is
necessary and expedient for the general advantage, a state of _civil
slavery_ commences immediately: this may affect the whole society, and
every description of persons in it, and yet the constitution of the
state be perfectly free. And this happens whenever the laws of a state
respect the form, or energy of the government, more than the happiness
of the citizen; as in Venice, where the most oppressive species of civil
slavery exists, extending to every individual in the state, from the
poorest gondolier to the members of the senate, and the doge himself.

This species of slavery also exists whenever there is an inequality of
rights, or privileges, between the subjects or citizens of the same
state, except such as necessarily result from the exercise of a public
office; for the pre-eminence of one class of men must be founded and
erected upon the depression of another; and the measure of exaltation in
the former, is that of the slavery of the latter. In all governments,
however constituted, or by what description soever denominated, wherever
the distinction of rank prevails, or is admitted by the constitution,
this species of slavery exists. It existed in every nation, and in every
government in Europe before the French revolution. It existed in the
American colonies before they became independent states; and
notwithstanding the maxims of equality which have been adopted in their
several constitutions, it exists in most, if not all, of them, at this
day, in the persons of our free Negroes and mulattoes; whose civil
incapacities are almost as numerous as the civil rights of our free
citizens. A brief enumeration of them, may not be improper before we
proceed to the third head.

Free Negroes and mulattoes are by our constitution excluded from the
right of suffrage,[6] and by consequence, I apprehend, from office too:
they were formerly incapable of serving in the militia, except as
drummers or pioneers, but now I presume they are enrolled in the lists
of those that bear arms, though formerly punishable for presuming to
appear at a muster-field [1723. c. 2.]. During the revolution war many
of them were enlisted as soldiers in the regular army. Even slaves were
not rejected from military service at that period, and such as served
faithfully during the period of their enlistment, were emancipated by an
act passed after the conclusion of the war [Oct. 1783. c. 3.]. An act of
justice to which they were entitled upon every principle. All but
housekeepers, and persons residing upon the frontiers are prohibited
from keeping, or carrying any gun, powder, shot, club, or other weapon
offensive or defensive [1748. c. 31. Edit. 1794.]: Resistance to a white
person, in any case, was, formerly, and now, in any case, except a
wanton assault on the Negroe or mulattoe, is punishable by whipping [Ib.
c. 103.]. No Negroe or mulattoe can be a witness in any prosecution, or
civil suit in which a white person is a party [1794. c. 141.]. Free
Negroes together with slaves were formerly denied the benefit of clergy
in cases where it was allowed to white persons; but they are now upon an
equal footing as to the allowance of clergy, though not as to the
consequence of that allowance, inasmuch as the court may superadd other
corporal punishments to the burning in the hand usually inflicted upon
white persons, in the like cases [1794. c. 103.]. Emancipated Negroes
may be sold to pay the debts of their former master contracted before
their emancipation; and they may be hired out to satisfy their taxes
where no sufficient distress can be had. Their children are to be bound
out apprentices by the overseers of the poor. Free Negroes have all the
advantages in capital cases, which white men are entitled to, except a
trial by a jury of their own complexion: and a slave suing for his
freedom shall have the same privilege. Free Negroes residing, or
employed to labour in any town must be registered; the same thing is
required of such as go at large in any county. The penalty in both cases
is a fine upon the person employing, or harbouring them, and
imprisonment of the Negroe [1794. c. 163.]. The migration of free
Negroes or mulattoes to this state is also prohibited; and those who do
migrate hither may be sent back to the place from whence they came
[1794. c. 164.]. Any person, not being a Negroe, having one-fourth or
more Negroe blood in him is deemed a mulattoe. The law makes no other
distinction between Negroes and mulattoes, whether slaves or freemen.
These incapacities and disabilities are evidently the fruit of the third
species of slavery, of which it remains to speak; or, rather, they are
scions from the same common stock: which is,

III. That condition in which one man is subject to be directed by
another in all his actions; and this constitutes a state of _domestic
slavery_; to which state all the incapacities and disabilities of civil
slavery are incident, with the weight of other numerous calamities
superadded thereto. And here it may be proper to make a short enquiry
into the origin and foundation of domestic slavery in other countries,
previous to its fatal introduction into this.

[Footnote 6: The Constitution of Virginia, art. 7. declares, that the
right of suffrage shall remain as then exercised: the act of 1723, c. 4
(edit. 1733,), sect. 23, declared, that no Negroe, mulattoe, or Indian,
shall have any vote at the election of burgesses, or any other election
whatsoever.--This act, it is presumed, was in force at the adoption of
the constitution.--The act of 1785, c. 55 (edit. of 1794, c. 17,), also
expressly excludes them from the right of suffrage.]

Slaves, says Justinian, are either born such or become so [Inst. lib. 1.
tit. 1.]. They are born slaves when they are children of bond women; and
they become slaves, either by the law of nations, that is, by captivity;
for it is the practice of our generals to sell their captives, being
accustomed to preserve, and not to destroy them: or by the civil law,
which happens when a free person, above the age of twenty, suffers
himself to be sold for the sake of sharing the price given for him. The
author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England thus combats the
reasonableness of all these grounds [1. b. c. 423.]: "The conqueror,"
says he, "according to the civilians, had a right to the life of his
captives; and having spared that, has a right to deal with him as he
pleases. But it is an untrue position, when taken generally, that by the
law of nature or nations, a man may kill his enemy: he has a right to
kill him only in particular cases; in cases of absolute necessity for
self-defence; and it is plain that this absolute necessity did not
subsist, since the victor did not actually kill him, but made him
prisoner. War itself is justifiable only on principles of
self-preservation; and therefore it gives no other right over prisoners
but merely to disable them from doing harm to us, by confining their
persons: much less can it give a right to kill, torture, abuse, plunder,
or even to enslave, an enemy, when the war is over. Since therefore the
right of _making_ slaves by captivity, depends on a supposed right of
slaughter, that foundation failing, the consequence drawn from it must
fail likewise. But, secondly, it is said slavery may begin _jure
civili_; when one man sells himself to another. This, if only meant of
contracts to serve, or work for, another, is very just: but when applied
to strict slavery, in the sense of the laws of old Rome or modern
Barbary, is also impossible. Every sale implies a price, a _quid pro
quo_, an equivalent given to the seller, in lieu of what he transfers to
the buyer; but what equivalent can be given for life and liberty, both
of which, in absolute slavery, are held to be in the master's disposal?
His property, also, the very price he seems to receive, devolves, _ipso
facto_, to his master, the instant he becomes a slave. In this case,
therefore, the buyer gives nothing, and the seller receives nothing: of
what validity then can a sale be, which destroys the very principles
upon which all sales are founded? Lastly we are told, that besides these
two ways by which slaves are acquired, they may also be hereditary;
"_servi nascuntur_"; the children of acquired slaves are, "jure
naturæ", by a negative kind of birthright, slaves also.--But _this,
being built on the two former rights, =must= fall_ together with them.
If neither captivity, nor the sale of one's self, can by the law of
nature and reason reduce the parent to slavery, _much less_ can they
reduce the offspring." Thus by the most clear, manly, and convincing
reasoning does this excellent author refute every claim upon which the
practice of slavery is founded, or by which it has been supposed to be
justified, at least, in modern times.[7] But were we even to admit, that
a captive taken in a _just war_, might by his conqueror be reduced to a
state of slavery, this could not justify the claim of Europeans to
reduce the natives of Africa to that state: it is a melancholy, though
well-known fact, that in order to furnish supplies of these unhappy
people for the purposes of the slave trade, the Europeans have
constantly, by the most insidious (I had almost said infernal) arts,
fomented a kind of perpetual warfare among the ignorant and miserable
people of Africa; and instances have not been wanting, where, by the
most shameful breach of faith, they have trepanned end made slaves of
the _sellers_ as well as the _sold_.[8] That such horrid practices have
been sanctioned by a civilized nation; that a nation ardent in the cause
of liberty, and enjoying its blessings in the fullest extent, can
continue to vindicate a right established upon such a foundation; that a
people who have declared, "That _all men =are by nature= equally[Bill of
Rights, art. 1.]-free =and= independent_", and have made this
declaration the first article in the foundation of their government,
should in defiance of so sacred a truth, recognized by themselves in so
solemn a manner, and on so important an occasion, tolerate a practice
incompatible therewith, is such an evidence of the weakness and
inconsistency of human nature, as every man who hath a spark of
patriotic fire in his bosom must wish to see removed from his own
country. If ever there was a cause, if ever an occasion, in which all
hearts should be united, every nerve strained, and every power exerted,
surely the restoration of human nature to its inalienable right is such:
Whatever obstacles, therefore, may hitherto have retarded the attempt,
he that can appreciate the honour and happiness of his country, will
think it time that we should attempt to surmount them.

[Footnote 7: These arguments are, in fact, borrowed from the Spirit of

[Footnote 8: "About the same time (the reign of queen Elizabeth) a
traffic in the human species, called Negroes, was introduced into
England, which is one of the most odious and unnatural branches of trade
the sordid and avaricious mind of mortals ever invented.--It had been
carried on before this period by Genoese traders, who bought a patent
from Charles the fifth, containing an exclusive right of carrying
Negroes from the Portuguese settlements in Africa, to America and the
West Indies; but the English nation had not yet engaged in the
iniquitous traffic.--One William Hawkins, an expert English seaman,
having made several voyages to the coast of Guinea, and from thence to
Brazil and the West Indies, had acquired considerable knowledge of the
countries. At his death he left his journals with his son, John Hawkins,
in which he described the lands of America and the West Indies as
exceedingly rich and fertile, but utterly neglected for want of hands to
improve them. He represented the natives of Europe as unequal to the
task in such a scorching climate; but those of Africa as well adapted to
undergo the labours requisite. Upon which John Hawkins immediately
formed a design of transporting Africans into the western world; and
having drawn a plan for the execution of it, he laid it before some of
his opulent neighbours for encouragement and approbation. To them it
appeared promising and advantageous. A subscription was opened and
speedily filled up, by Sir Lionel Ducket, Sir Thomas Lodge, Sir William
Winter, and others, who plainly perceived the vast profits that would
result from such a trade. Accordingly three ships were fitted out, and
manned by an hundred select sailors, whom Hawkins encouraged to go with
him by promises of good treatment and great pay. In the year 1562 he set
sail for Africa, and in a few weeks arrived at the country called Sierra
Leona, where he began his commerce with the Negroes. While he trafficked
with them, he found the means of giving them a charming description of
the country to which he was bound; the unsuspicious Africans listened to
him with apparent joy and satisfaction, and seemed remarkably fond of
his European trinkets, food, and clothes. He pointed out to them the
barrenness of the country, and their naked and wretched condition, and
promised if any of them were weary of their miserable circumstances, and
would go along with him, he would carry them to a plentiful land, where
they should _live happy_, and _receive_ an abundant _recompence_ for
their labours. He told them the country was inhabited by such men as
himself and his jovial companions, and _assured_ them of _kind usage_
and _great friendship_. In short, the Negroes were overcome by his
flattering promises, and _three hundred_ stout fellows accepted his
offer, and consented to embark along with him. Every thing being settled
on the most amicable terms between them, Hawkins made preparations for
his voyage. But in the night before his departure his Negroes were
attacked by a large body from a different quarter; Hawkins, being
alarmed with the shrieks and cries of dying persons, ordered his men to
the assistance of his slaves, and having surrounded the assailants,
carried a number of them on board as prisoners of war. The next day he
set sail for Hispaniola with his cargo of human creatures; but during
the passage, he treated the prisoners of war in a different manner from
his volunteers. Upon his arrival he disposed of his cargo to great
advantage; and endeavoured to inculcate on the Spaniards who bought the
negroes the same distinction to be observed: but they having _purchased
all at the same rate_, considered them as slaves of the same condition,
and consequently treated all alike."

Hawkins having returned to England, soon after made preparations for a
second voyage. "In his passage he fell in with the Minion man of war,
which accompanied him to the Coast of Africa. After his arrival he began
as formerly to traffic with the Negroes, endeavouring by persuasions and
_prospects_ of _reward_, to induce them to go along with him--but now
they were more reserved and jealous of his designs, and as none of their
neighbours had returned, they were apprehensive he had killed and eat
them. The crew of the man of war observing the Africans backward and
suspicious, began to laugh at his gentle and dilatory methods of
proceeding, and proposed having immediate recourse to force and
compulsion--but Hawkins considered it as cruel and unjust, and tried by
persuasions, promises and threats, to prevail on them to desist from a
purpose so unwarrantable and barbarous. In vain did he urge his
authority and instructions from the Queen: the bold and headstrong
sailors would hear of no restraints. Drunkenness and avarice are deaf to
the voice of humanity. They pursue their violent design, and, after
several unsuccessful attacks, in which _many_ of them lost their
_lives_, the cargo was at length compleated by barbarity and force.

"Hence arose that horrid and inhuman practice of dragging Africans into
slavery, which has since been _so_ pursued, in defiance of every
principle of justice and religion. Had Negroes been brought from the
flames, to which in some countries they were devoted on their falling
prisoners of war, and in others, sacrificed at the funeral obsequies of
the great and powerful among themselves; in short had they by this
traffic been delivered from _torture_ or _death_, European merchants
_might have some excuse_ to plead in its vindication. _But according to
the common mode in which it has been conducted_, we must confess it a
difficult matter to conceive a _single_ argument in its defence. And
though policy has given countenance and sanction to the trade, yet every
candid and impartial man must confess, that it is atrocious and
unjustifiable in every light in which it can be viewed, and turns
merchants into a band of robbers, and trade into atrocious acts of fraud
and violence." Historical Account of South-Carolina and Georgia.
Anonymous. London printed in 1779--page 20, &c.

"The number of Negroe slaves bartered for in one year (viz. 1768), on
the Coast of Africa from Cape Blanco, to Rio Congo, amounted to 104,000
souls, whereof more than half (viz. 53,000) were shipped on account of
British merchants, and 6,300 on the account of British Americans." The
Law of Retribution by Granville Sharpe, Esq. page 147. note.]

But how loudly soever reason, justice, and (may I not add) religion,[9]
condemn the practice of slavery, it is acknowledged to have been very
ancient, and almost universal. The Greeks, the Romans, and the ancient
Germans also practiced it, as well as the more ancient Jews and
Egyptians. By the Germans it was transmitted to the various kingdoms
which arose in Europe out of the ruins of the Roman empire. In England
it subsisted for some ages under the name of _villeinage_.[10] In Asia
it seems to have been general, and in Africa universal, and so remains
to this day: In Europe it hath long since declined; its first declension
there, is said to have been in Spain, as early as the eighth century;
and it is alleged to have been general about the middle of the
fourteenth, and was near expiring in the sixteenth, when the discovery
of the American continent, and the eastern and western coasts of Africa
gave rise to the introduction of a new species of slavery. It took its
origin from the Portuguese, who, in order to supply the Spaniards with
persons able to sustain the fatigue of cultivating their new possessions
in America, particularly the islands, opened a trade between Africa and
America for the sale of Negroes, about the year 1508. The expedient of
having slaves for labour was not long peculiar to the Spaniards, being
afterwards adopted by other European colonies [Hargrave, ib.]: and
though some attempts have been made to stop its progress in most of the
United States, and several of them have the fairest prospects of success
in attempting the extirpation of it, yet is others, it hath taken such
deep root, as to require the most strenuous exertions to eradicate it.

[Footnote 9: See the various tracts on this subject, by Granville
Sharpe, Esq. of London.]

[Footnote 10: The condition of a _villein_ had most of the incidents I
have before described in giving the idea of _slavery_, in general. His
services were uncertain and indeterminate, such as his lord thought fit
to require; or as some of our ancient writers express it, he knew not in
the evening what he was to do in the morning, he was bound to do
whatever he was commanded. He was liable to beating, imprisonment, and
every other chastisement his lord could devise, except killing and
maiming. He was incapable of acquiring property for his own benefit; he
was himself the subject of property; as such saleable and transmissible.
If he was a villein regardant he passed with the land to which he was
annexed, but might be severed at the will of his lord; if he was a
villein in gross, he was an hereditament, or a chattel real, according
to his lord's interest; being descendible to the heir, where the lord
was absolute _owner_, and transmissible to the executor where the lord
had only a term of years in him. Lastly, the slavery extended to the
issue, if the father was a villein, our law deriving the condition of
the child from that of the father, contrary to the Roman law, in which
the rule was, _partus sequitur ventum_. Hargrave's Case of Negroe
Somerset, page 26 and 27.

The same writer refers the origin of vassalage in England, principally
to the wars between the British, Saxon, Danish, and Norman nations,
contending for the sovereignty of that country, in opposition to the
opinion of judge Fitzherbert, who supposes villeinage to have commenced
at the conquest. Ib. 27, 28. And this he proves from Spelman and other
antiquaries. Ib. The writ _de nativo habendo_, by which the lord was
enabled to recover his villein that had absconded from him, creates a
presumption that all the natives of England were at some period reduced
to a state of villeinage, the word _nativus_, which signified a villein,
most clearly designating the person meant thereby to be a _native_: this
etymon is obvious, as well from the import of the word _nativus_, as
from the history of the more remote ages of Britain. Sir Edward Coke's
Etymology, "_quia plerumque nascuntur servi_," is one of those puerile
conceits, which so frequently occur in his works, and are unworthy of so
great a man.

Barrington in his observations upon _magna carta_ c. 4. observes, that
the villeins who held by servile tenures were considered as so many
negroes on a sugar plantation; the words "_liber homo_," in magna carta,
c. 14. with all deference to sir Edward Coke, who says they mean a
_free-holder_, I understand as meaning _a free man_,[Liber homo, &c. the
title of _freeman_ was formerly _confined_ to the _nobility_ and
_gentry_ who were _descended_ of free ancestors.--Burgh's Political
Disquisitions, vol. iii. p. 400, who cites Spelman's Glossary, voc.
Liber homo.] as contradistinguished from a _villein_: for in the very
next sentence the words "et _villanus_ alterius quam noster," occur.
Villeins must certainly have been numerous at that day, to have obtained
a place in the Great Charter. It is no less an evidence that their
condition was in a state of melioration.

In Poland, at this day, the peasants seem to be in an absolute state of
slavery, or at least of villeinage, to the nobility, who are the

The first introduction of Negroes into Virginia happened, as we have
already mentioned, in the year 1620; from that period to the year 1662
there is no compilation of our laws, in print, now to be met with. In
the revision made in that year, we find an act declaring that no
Englishman, trader, or other, who shall bring in any Indians as servants
and assign them over to any other, shall sell them for _slaves_, nor for
any other time than English of like age should serve by act of assembly
[1662. c. 136.]. The succeeding session all children born in this
country were declared to be bond, or free, according to the condition of
the mother [1662. Sess. d. c. 12.]. In 1667 it was declared, "That the
conferring of baptism doth not alter the condition of the person
baptized, as to his bondage or freedom [1667. c. 2.]." This was done,
"that divers masters freed from this doubt may more carefully endeavour
the propagating of Christianity, by permitting their slaves to be
baptized." It would have been happy for this unfortunate race of men if
the same tender regard for their bodies, had always manifested itself in
our laws, as is shewn for their souls in this act. But this was not the
case; for two years after, we meet with an act, declaring, "That if any
slave resist his master, or others, by his master's orders correcting
him, and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, such
death should not be accounted felony: but the master or other person
appointed by his master to punish him, be acquit from molestation:
_since it could not be presumed that prepensive malice_, which alone
makes _murder felony_, should induce any man to destroy his own
estate."[11] This cruel and tyrannical act was, at three different
periods [1705. c. 49. 1723. c. 4. 1748. c. 31.] re-enacted, with very
little alteration; and was not finally repealed till the year 1788
[1788. c. 23.]--above a century after it had first disgraced our code.
In 1668 we meet with the first traces of emancipation, in an act which
subjects Negroe women set free to the tax on titheables [1668. c. 7.].
Two years after [1670. c. 5.], an act passed prohibiting _Indians_ or
Negroes, manumitted, or otherwise set free, though baptized, from
purchasing Christian servants [1670. c. 12.]. From this act it is
evident that _Indians_ had _before_ that time been made slaves, as well
as Negroes, though we have no traces of the original act by which they
were reduced to that condition. An act of the same session recites that
disputes had arisen whether Indians taken in war by any other nation,
and by that nation sold to the English, are servants for _life_, or for
a term of years; and declaring that all _servants_, not being
Christians, imported into this country by _shipping_, shall be _slaves_
for their life-time; but that what shall come by land, shall serve, if
boys and girls, until thirty years of age; if men and women twelve
years, and no longer. On a rupture with the Indians in the year 1679 it
was, for the _better encouragement of soldiers_, declared that what
_Indian_ prisoners should be _taken in war_ should be free purchase to
the soldier _taking_ them [1679. c. 1.]. Three years after it was
declared that all _servants_ brought into this country by sea or land,
not being Christians, whether Negroes, Moors, mulattoes or Indians,
except Turks and Moors in amity with Great Britain, and all Indians
which should thereafter be sold by neighbouring Indians, or any others
trafficking with us, as slaves, should be slaves to all intents and
purposes [1682. c. 1.]. This act was re-enacted in the year 1705, and
afterwards in 1753 [1705 c. 49. 1753. c. 2.], nearly in the same terms.
In 1705 an act was made, authorising a free and open trade for all
persons, at all times, and at all places, with all Indians whatsoever
[1705 c. 52.]. On the authority of this act, the general court in April
term 1787 decided that no Indians brought into Virginia since the
passing thereof, nor their descendants, can be slaves in this
commonwealth.[12] In October 1778 the general assembly passed the first
act which occurs in our code for prohibiting the importation of slaves
[1778. c. 1.]; thereby declaring that no slave should thereafter be
brought into this commonwealth by land, or by water; and that every
slave imported contrary thereto, should upon such importation be free:
with an exception as to such as might belong to persons migrating from
the other states, or be claimed by descent, devise, or marriage, or be
at that time the actual property of any citizen of this commonwealth,
residing in any other of the United States, or belonging to travellers
making a transient stay, and carrying their slaves away with them.--In
1705 this act unfortunately underwent some alteration, by declaring that
slaves thereafter brought into this commonwealth, and kept therein one
whole _year together_, or so long at different times as shall _amount to
a year_, shall be free. By this means the difficulty of proving the
right to freedom will be not a little augmented: for the fact of the
first importation, where the right to freedom immediately ensued, might
have been always proved without difficulty; but where a slave is subject
to removal from place to place, and his right to freedom is postponed
for so long a time as a whole year, or perhaps several years, the
provisions in favour of liberty may be too easily evaded. The same act
declares that no persons shall thenceforth be slaves in this
commonwealth, except such as were so on the first day of that session
(Oct. 17th, 1785), and the descendants of the females of them. This act
was re-enacted in the revisal made in 1792 [See acts of 1794, c. 103.].
In 1793 an additional act passed, authorising and requiring any justice
of the peace having notice of the importation of any slaves, directly or
indirectly, from any part of Africa or the West Indies, to cause such
slave to be immediately apprehended and transported out of the
commonwealth [Edit. of 1794. c. 164.]. Such is the rise, progress, and
present foundation of slavery in Virginia, so far as I have been able to
trace it. The present number of slaves in Virginia, is immense, as
appears by the census taken in 1791, amounting to no less than 292,427
souls: nearly two-fifths of the whole population of the
commonwealth.[13] We may console ourselves with the hope that this
proportion will not increase, the further importation of slaves being
prohibited, whilst the free migrations of white people hither is
encouraged. But this hope affords no other relief from the evil of
slavery, than a diminution of those apprehensions which are naturally
excited by the detention of so large a number of oppressed individuals
among us, and the possibility that they may one day be roused to an
attempt to shake off their chains.

[Footnote 11: Among the Israelites, according to the Mosaical law, "If a
man smote his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he died under his
hand, he should surely be punished--notwithstanding if he continue a day
or two, he should not be punished [Exod. c. 21]:" for, saith the text,
he is _his money_. Our legislators appear to have adopted the reason of
the latter clause, without the humanity of the former part of the law.]

[Footnote 12: Hannah and other Indians, against Davis.--Since this
adjudication, I have met with a manuscript act of assembly made in 1691
c. 9 entitled, "An Act for a free Trade with Indians," the enacting
clause of which is in the very words of the act of 1705. c. 52. A
similar title to an act of that session occurs in the edition of 1733.
p. 94. and the chapter is numbered as in the manuscript. If this
manuscript be authentic (which there is some reason to presume, it being
copied in some blank leaves at the end of Purvis's edition, and
apparently written about the time of the passage of the act), it would
seem that no Indians brought into Virginia for more than a century, nor
any of their descendents, can be retained in slavery in this

[Footnote 13: Although it be true that the number of slaves in the
_whole_ state bears the proportion of 292,427, to 747,610, the whole
number of souls in the state, that is, nearly as _two_ to _five_; yet
this proportion is by no means _uniform_ throughout the state. In the
forty-four counties lying upon the Bay, and the great rivers of the
state, and comprehended by a line including Brunswick, Cumberland,
Goochland, Hanover, Spottsylvania, Stafford, Prince William and Fairfax,
and the counties eastward thereof, the number of slaves is 196,542, and
the number of free persons, including free Negroes and mulattoes,
198,371 only. So that the blacks in that populous and extensive district
of country are _more numerous_ than the whites. In the second class,
comprehending nineteen counties, and extending from the last mentioned
line to the Blue Ridge, and including the populous counties of Frederick
and Berkeley, beyond the Blue Ridge, there are 82,286 slaves, and
136,251 free persons; the number of free persons in that class not being
two to one, to the slaves. In the third class the proportion is
considerably increased; the eleven counties of which it consists contain
only 11,218 slaves, and 76,281 free persons. This class reaches to the
Allegany ridge of mountains: the fourth and last class, comprehending
fourteen counties westward of the third class, contains only 2,381
slaves, and 42,288 free persons. It is obvious from this statement that
almost all the dangers and inconveniences which may be apprehended from
a state of slavery on the one hand, or an attempt to abolish it, on the
other, will be confined to the people eastward of the blue ridge of

Whatever inclination the first inhabitants of Virginia might have to
encourage slavery, a disposition to check its progress, and increase,
manifested itself in the legislature even before the close of the last
century. So long ago as the year 1669 we find the title of an act [Edit.
of 1733. c. 12.], laying an imposition upon _servants_, and _slaves_,
imported into this country; which was either continued, revised, or
increased, by a variety of temporary acts, passed between that period
and the revolution in 1776.[14]--One of these acts passed in 1723, by a
marginal note appears to have been repealed by proclamation, Oct. 24,
1724. In 1732 a duty of five per cent. was laid on slaves imported, to
be paid by the buyers; a measure calculated to render it as little
obnoxious as possible to the _English_ merchants trading to Africa, and
not improbably suggested by them, to the privy council in England. The
preamble to this act is in these remarkable words, "We your majesty's
most dutiful and loyal subjects, &c. taking into our serious
consideration the exigencies of your government here, and that the duty
laid upon liquors will not be sufficient to defray the necessary
expences thereof, do humbly represent to your majesty, that _no other_
duty can be laid upon our import or export, without oppressing your
subjects, than a duty upon _slaves imported_, to be paid by the buyers,
_agreeable to your majesty's instructions_ to your lieutenant governor."
This act was only for the short period of four years, but seems to have
been continued from time to time till the year 1751, when the duty
expired, but was revived the next year. In the year 1740 an additional
duty of five per cent. was imposed for four years, for the purpose of an
expedition against the Spaniards, &c. to be likewise paid by the buyers:
and in 1742 the whole duty was continued till July 1, 1747.--The act of
1752, by which these duties were revived and continued (as well as
several former acts), takes notice that the duty had been found _no ways
burdensome to the traders_ in slaves. In 1754 an additional duty of five
per cent. was imposed for the term of three years, by an act for
encouraging and protecting the settlers on the Missisippi: this duty,
like all the former, was to be paid by the buyers. In 1759 a duty of 20
per cent. was imposed upon all slaves imported into Virginia from
Maryland, North Carolina, or other places in America, to continue for
seven years. In 1769 the same duty was further continued. In the same
session the duty of five per cent. was continued for three years, and an
additional duty of ten per cent. to be likewise paid by the buyers, was
imposed for seven years; and a further duty of five per cent. was, by a
separate act of the same session, imposed for the better support of the
contingent charges of government, to be paid by the buyers. In 1772 all
these duties were further continued for the term of five years from the
expiration of the acts then in force: the assembly at the same time
petitioned the throne,[15] _to remove all those restraints which
inhibited_ his majesty's governors assenting to such _laws_ as _might
check so very pernicious a commerce_, as that of slavery.

[Footnote 14: The following is a list of the acts, or titles of acts,
imposing duties on slaves imported, which occur in the various
compilations of our laws, or in the Sessions Acts, or Journals.

1699, c. 12. title only retained. Edit. of 1733, p. 113
1701, c. 5. the same, 116
1704, c. 4. the same, 122
1705, c. 1. the same, 126
1710, c. 1. the same, 239
1712, c. 3. the same, 282
1723, c. 1. repealed by proclamation, 333
1727, c. 1. enacted with a suspending clause, and the royal assent
refused, 376

1732, c. 3. printed at large, 469
1734, c. 3. printed at large in Sessions Acts.
1736, c. 1. the same.
1738, c. 6. the same.
1740, c. 2. the same.
1742, c. 2. the same.

From this period I have not been able to refer to the Sessions Acts.

1752, c. 1. printed at large in the edit. of 1769, 281
1754, c. 1. the same, 319
1755, c. 2. Sessions Acts. Ten per cent. in addition to all former

1759, c. 1. printed at large, edition of 1769, 369
1763, c. 1. Journals of that session.
1766, c. 3, 4. printed at large, edit. of 1769, 461, 462 c. 15.
additional duty, the title only is printed, being repealed by the crown,
Ib. 473

1769, c. 7, 8, and 12. title only printed, edition of 1785, 6, 7
1772, c. 15. title only printed, Ibidem, 24]

[Footnote 15:====>The following extract from a petition to the throne,
presented from the house of burgesses of Virginia, April 1, 1772, will
shew the sense of the people of Virginia on the subject of slavery at
that period.

"The many instances of your majesty's benevolent intentions and more
gracious disposition to promote the prosperity and happiness of your
subjects in the colonies, encourages us 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 as 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."

"We are sensible that some of your majesty's subjects of _Great Britain_
may reap emoluments from this sort of traffic, but when we consider that
it greatly retards the settlement of the colonies, with _more useful_
inhabitants, and may, in time, have the most destructive influence, we
presume to hope that the _interest of a few_ be disregarded when placed
in competition with the security and happiness of such numbers of your
majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects."

"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 inhibit their assenting to such laws as might check
so very pernicious a commerce_." Journals of the House of Burgesses,
page 131.

This petition produced no effect, as appears from the first clause of
our CONSTITUTION, where among other acts of misrule, "the inhuman use of
the royal negative" in refusing us permission to exclude slaves from
among us by law, is enumerated, among the reasons for _separating from
Great Britain_.]

In the course of this enquiry it is easy to trace the desire of the
legislature to put a stop to the further importation of slaves; and had
not this desire been uniformly opposed on the part of the crown, it is
highly probable that event would have taken effect at a much earlier
period than it did. A duty of five per cent. to be paid by the buyers,
at first, with difficulty obtained the royal assent. Requisitions from
the crown for aids, on particular occasions, afforded a pretext from
time to time for increasing the duty from five, to ten, and finally to
twenty per cent. with which the _buyer_ was uniformly made chargeable.
The wishes of the people of this colony, were not sufficient to
counterbalance the interest of the English merchants, trading to Africa,
and it is probable, that however disposed to put a stop to so infamous a
traffic by law, we should never have been able to effect it, so long as
we might have continued dependant on the British government: an object
sufficient of itself to justify a revolution. That the legislature of
Virginia were _sincerely_ disposed to put a stop to it, cannot be
doubted; for even during the tumult and confusion of the revolution, we
have seen that they availed themselves of the earliest opportunity, to
crush for ever so pernicious and infamous a commerce, by an act passed
in October 1778, the penalties of which, though apparently lessened by
the act of 1792, are still equal to the value of the slave; being two
hundred dollars upon the importer, and one hundred dollars upon every
person buying or selling an imported slave.

A system uniformly persisted in for nearly a whole century, and finally
carried into effect, so soon as the legislature was unrestrained by "the
inhuman exercise of the royal negative," evinces the sincerity of that
disposition which the legislature had shewn during so long a period, to
put a check to the growing evil. From the time that the duty was raised
above five per cent. it is probable that the importation of slaves into
this colony decreased. The demand for them in the more southern colonies
probably contributed also to lessen the numbers imported into this: for
some years immediately preceding the revolution, the importation of
slaves into Virginia might almost be considered as at an end; and
probably would have been entirely so, if the ingenuity of the merchant
had not found out the means of evading the heavy duty, by pretended
sales, at which the slaves were bought in by some friend, at a quarter
of their real value.

Tedious and unentertaining as this detail may appear to all others, a
citizen of Virginia will feel some satisfaction at reading so clear a
vindication of his country, from the opprobrium, but too lavishly
bestowed upon her of fostering slavery in her bosom, whilst she boasts a
sacred regard to the liberty of her citizens, and of mankind in general.
The acrimony of such censures must abate, at least in the breasts of the
candid, upon an impartial review of the subject here brought before
them; and if in addition to what we have already advanced, they consider
the difficulties attendant on any plan for the abolition of slavery, in
a country where so large a proportion of the inhabitants are slaves; and
where a still larger proportion of the cultivators of the earth are of
that description of men, they will probably feel emotions of sympathy
and compassion, both for the slave and for his master, succeed to those
hasty prejudices, which even the best dispositions are not exempt from
contracting, upon subjects where there is a deficiency of information.

We are next to consider the condition of slaves in Virginia, or the
legal consequences attendant on a state of slavery in this commonwealth;
and here it is not my intention to notice those laws, which consider
slaves, merely as _property_, and have from time to time been enacted to
regulate the disposition of them, _as such_; for these will be more
properly considered elsewhere: my intention at present is therefore to
take a view of such laws, only, as regard slaves, as a distinct class of
_persons_, whose rights, if indeed they possess any, are reduced to a
much narrower compass, than those, of which we have been speaking

Civil rights, we may remember, are reducible to three primary heads; the
right of personal security; the right of personal liberty; and the right
of private property. In a state of slavery the two last are wholly
abolished, the person of the slave being at the absolute disposal of his
master; and property, what he is incapable, in that state, either of
acquiring, or holding, to his own use. Hence it will appear how
perfectly irreconcilable a state of slavery is to the principles of a
democracy, which form the _basis_ and _foundation_ of our government.
For our bill of rights declares, "that all men are by nature _equally
free_ and independent, and have certain rights of which they cannot
deprive or divest their posterity--namely, the enjoyment of life and
_liberty_, with the means of _acquiring_ and _possessing property_."
This is indeed no more than a recognition of the first principles of the
law of nature, which teaches us this equality, and enjoins every man,
whatever advantages he may possess over another, as to the various
qualities or endowments of body or mind, to practice the precepts of the
law of nature to those who are in these respects his _inferiors_, no
less than it enjoins his _inferiors_ to practise them towards _him_.
Since he has no more right to insult _them_, than they have to injure
him. Nor does the _bare unkindness of nature_ or of fortune condemn a
man to a _worse_ condition than others, as to the enjoyment of common
privileges [Spavan's Puff. vol. 1. c. 17.]. It would be hard to
reconcile reducing the Negroes to a state of slavery to these
principles, unless we first degrade them below the rank of human beings,
not only politically, but also physically and morally.--The Roman
lawyers look upon those only properly as _persons_, who are _free_,
putting _slaves_ into the rank of _goods_ and _chattels_; and the policy
of our legislature, as well as the practice of slave-holders in America
in general, seems conformable to that idea: but surely it is time we
should admit the evidence of moral truth, and learn to regard them as
our fellow men, and equals, except in those particulars where accident,
or perhaps nature, may have give us some advantage; a recompence for
which they perhaps enjoy in other respects.

Slavery, says Hargrave, always imports an obligation of perpetual
service, which only the consent of the master can dissolve: it also
generally gives to the master an arbitrary power of administring every
sort of correction, however inhuman, not immediately affecting life or
limb, and even these in some countries, as formerly in Rome, and at this
day among the Asiatics and Africans, are left exposed to the arbitrary
will of a master, or protected only by fines or other slight
punishments. The property of the slave also is absolutely the property
of his master, the slave himself being the subject of property, and as
such saleable, or transmissible at the will of his master.--A slavery,
so malignant as that described, does not leave to its wretched victims
the least vestige of any civil right, and even divests them of all their
natural rights. It does not, however, appear, that the rigours of
slavery in this country were ever as great, as those above described:
yet it must be confessed, that, at times, they have fallen very little
short of them.

The first severe law respecting slaves, now to be met with in our code,
is that of 1669, already mentioned, which declared that the death of a
slave _resisting_ his master, or other person correcting him by his
order, _happening by extremity of the correction_, should not be
accounted felony. The alterations which this law underwent in three
successive acts [1705. c. 49. 1723, c. 4. 1748. c. 31.], were by no
means calculated effectually to mitigate its severity; it seems rather
to have been augmented by the act of 1723, which declared that a person
indicted for the murder of a slave, and found guilty of _manslaughter_,
should not incur any punishment for the same.[16]

[Footnote 16: In December term 1788, one John Huston was tried in the
general court for the murder of a slave; the jury found him guilty of
manslaughter, and the court, upon a motion in arrest of judgment,
discharged him without any punishment. The general assembly being then
sitting, some of the members of the court mentioned the case to some
leading characters in the legislature, and the act was at the same
session repealed.]

All these acts were at length repealed in 1788 [1788. 2. 23.]. So that
homicide of a slave stands now upon the same footing, as in the case of
any other person. In 1672 it was declared lawful for any person pursuing
any runaway Negroe, mulattoe, Indian slave, or _servant for life_, by
virtue of an _hue and cry_, to kill them in case of resistance, without
being questioned for the same [1672. c. 8.]. A few years afterwards this
act was extended to persons _employed to apprehend_ runaways [1680. c.
10.]. In 1705, these acts underwent some small alteration; two justices
being authorised by proclamation to _outlaw_ runaways, who might
thereafter be _killed_ and destroyed by any person whatsoever, by _such
ways and means_ as he may think fit, without accusation or impeachment
of any crime for so doing [1705. c. 49.]: And if any such slave were
apprehended, he might be punished at the discretion of the county court,
either by _dismembering_, or in any other manner not _touching life_.
The inhuman rigour of this act was afterwards [1723. c. 4. 1748. c. 31.]
extended to the venial offence of going abroad by night, if the slave
was _notoriously_ guilty of it.--Such are the cruelties to which a state
of slavery gives birth; such the horrors to which the human mind is
capable of being reconciled, by its adoption. The dawn of humanity at
length appeared in the year 1769, when the power of dismembering, even
under the authority of a county court, was restricted to the single
offence of _attempting_ to ravish a white woman [1769. c. 19.], in which
case perhaps the punishment is perhaps not more than commensurate to the
crime. In 1772 some restraints were laid upon the practice of outlawing
slaves, requiring that it should appear to the _satisfaction_ of the
justices that the slaves were outlying, and _doing mischief_ [1772. c.
9.]. These loose expressions of the act, left too much in the discretion
of men, not much addicted to weighing their import.--In 1792, every
thing relative to the outlawry of slaves was _expunged_ from our code
[Edit. 1794. c. 103.], and I trust will never again find a place in it.
By the act of 1680, a Negroe, mulattoe, or Indian, bond or _free_,
presuming to lift his hand in opposition to any Christian, should
receive thirty lashes on his bare back for every offence [1680. c. 10.
1705. c.]. The same act prohibited slaves from carrying any club, staff,
gun, sword, or other weapon, offensive or defensive. This was afterwards
extended to all Negroes, mulattoes and Indians whatsoever, with a few
exceptions in favour of housekeepers, residents on a frontier
plantation, and such as were enlisted in the militia [1723. c. 4.].
Slaves, by these and other acts [1705. c. 49. 1723. c. 4. 1748. c. 31.
1753. c. 2. 1785. c. 77.], are prohibited from going abroad without
leave in writing from their masters, and if they do, may be whipped: any
person suffering a slave to remain on his plantation for four hours
together, or dealing with him without leave in writing from his master,
is subject to a fine. A runaway slave may be apprehended and committed
to jail, and if not claimed within three months (being first advertised)
he shall be hired out, having an iron collar first put about his neck:
and if not claimed within a year shall be sold [1753. c. 2.]. These
provisions were in general re-enacted in 1792 [Edit. of 1794. c. 103.
131.], but the punishment to be inflicted on a Negroe or mulattoe, for
lifting his hand against a white person, is restricted to those cases,
where the former is not wantonly assaulted. In this act the word Indian
appears to have been designedly omitted: the small number of these
people, or their descendants remaining among us, concurring with a more
liberal way of thinking, probably gave occasion to this circumstance.
The act of 1748, c. 31, made it felony without benefit of clergy for a
slave to prepare, exhibit, or administer any medicine whatever, without
the order or consent of the master; but _allowed clergy_ if it appeared
that the medicine was not administered with an _ill intent_; the act of
1792, with more justice, directs that in such case he shall be acquitted
[Edit. 1794. c. 103.]. To consult, advise, or conspire, to rebel, or to
plot, or conspire the death of any person whatsoever, is still felony
without benefit of clergy in a slave [1748. c. 31. 1794. c.
103.].--Riots, routs, unlawful assemblies, trespasses and seditious
speeches by slaves, are punishable with stripes, at the discretion of a
justice of the peace [1785. c. 77. 1794. c. 103.].--The master of a
slave permitting him to go at large and trade as a freeman, is subject
to a fine [1769. c. 19. May 1782. c. 32. 1794. Ib.]; and if she suffers
the slave to hire himself out, the latter may be sold, and twenty-five
per cent. of the price be applied to the use of the county.--Negroes and
mulattoes, whether slaves or not, are incapable of being witnesses, but
against, or between Negroes and mulattoes; they are not permitted to
intermarry with any white person; yet no punishment is annexed to the
offence in the slave; nor is the marriage void; but the white person
contracting the marriage, and the clergyman by whom it is celebrated are
liable to fine and imprisonment; and this is probably the only instance
in which our laws will be found more favourable to a Negroe than a white
person. These provisions though introduced into our code at different
periods, were all re-enacted in 1792 [Edit. of 1794. c. 103.].

From this melancholy review it will appear that not only the right of
property, and the right of personal liberty, but even the right of
personal security, has been, at times, either wholly annihilated, or
reduced to a shadow: and even in these days, the protection of the
latter seems to be confined to very few cases. Many actions, indifferent
in themselves, being permitted by the law of nature to all mankind, and
by the laws of society to all free persons, are either rendered highly
criminal in a slave, or subject him to some kind of punishment or
restraint. Nor is it in this respect only, that his condition is
rendered thus deplorable by law. The measure of punishment for the same
offence, is often, and the manner of trial and conviction is always,
different in the case of a slave, and a free-man. If the latter be
accused of any crime, he is entitled to an examination before the court
of the county where the offence is alleged to have been committed; whose
decision, if in his favour, is held to be a legal and final acquittal,
but it is not final if against him; for after this, both a grand jury,
and a petit jury of the county, must successively pronounce him guilty;
the former by the concurrent voices of twelve at least, of their body,
and the latter, by their unanimous verdict upon oath. He may take
exception to the proceedings against him, by a motion in arrest of
judgment; and in this case, or if there be a special verdict, the same
unanimity between his judges, as between his jurors, is necessary to his
condemnation. Lastly, through the punishment which the law pronounces
for his offence amount to death itself, he shall in many cases have the
benefit of clergy, unless he has before received it. But in the case of
a slave, the mode was formerly, and still remains essentially different.
How early this distinction was adopted I have not been able to discover.
The title of an act occurs, which passed in the year 1705 [1705. c. 11.]
for the _speedy_ and _easy_ prosecution of slaves committing capital
crimes. In 1723 [1723. c. 4.] the governor was authorized, whenever any
slave was committed for any capital offence, to issue a special
commission of oyer and terminer, to _such persons as he should think
fit_, the number being left to his discretion, who should thereupon
proceed to the trial of such slave, taking for evidence the confession
of the defendant, the oath of one or more credible witnesses, or such
testimony of Negroes, mulattoes, or Indians, bond or free, with pregnant
circumstances, as to them should seem convincing, without the solemnity
of a jury. No exception, formerly, could be taken to the proceedings, on
the trial of a slave [1748. c. 31.], but that proviso is omitted in the
act of 1792, and the justices moreover seem bound to allow him counsel
for his defence, whose fee shall be paid by his master [Edit. 1794. c.
103.] In case of conviction, execution of the sentence was probably very
speedily performed, since the act of 1748, provides that, thereafter, it
should not be performed in less than ten days, except in case of
insurrection or rebellion; and further, that if the court be divided in
opinion the accused should be acquitted. In 1764, an act passed,
authorizing general, instead of special, commissioners of oyer and
terminer [1764. c. 9.], constituting all the justices of any county,
judges for the trial of slaves, committing capital offences, within
their respective counties; any four of whom, one being of the quorum,
should constitute a court for that purpose. In 1772 one step further was
made in favour of humanity, by an act declaring that no slave should
thereafter be condemned to die unless four of the court should concur in
opinion of his guilt [1772. c. 9.]. The act of 1786, c. 58, confirmed by
that of 1792, constitutes the justices of every county and corporation
justices of oyer and terminer for the trial of slaves [Edit. 1794. c.
103.]; requires _five_ justices, at least, to constitute a court, and
_unanimity_ in the court for his condemnation; allows him counsel for
his defence, to be paid by his owner, and, I apprehend, admits him to
object to the proceedings against him; and finally enlarges the time of
execution to _thirty_ days, instead of ten (except in cases of
conspiracy, insurrection, or rebellion), and extends the benefit of
clergy to him in all cases, where any other person should have the
benefit thereof, except in the cases before mentioned.

To an attentive observer these gradual, and almost imperceptible
amendments in our jurisprudence respecting slaves, will be found, upon
the whole, of infinite importance to that unhappy race. The mode of
trial in criminal cases, especially, is rendered infinitely more
beneficial to them, than formerly, though perhaps still liable to
exception for want of the aid of a jury: the solemnity of an oath
administered the moment the trial commences, may be considered as
operating more forcibly on the mind, than a general oath of office,
taken, perhaps, twenty years before. Unanimity may also be more readily
expected to take place among _five_ men, than among _twelve_. These
objections to the want of a jury are not without weight: on the other
hand it may be observed, that if the number of triers be not equal to a
full jury, they may yet be considered as more select; a circumstance of
infinitely greater importance to the slave. The unanimity requisite in
the court in order to conviction, is a more happy acquisition to the
accused, than may at first appear; the opinions of the court must be
delivered openly, immediately, and seriatim, beginning with the youngest
judge. A single voice in favour of the accused, is an acquittal; for
unanimity is not necessary, as with a jury, to acquit, as well as to
condemn: there is less danger in this mode of trial, where the suffrages
are to be openly delivered, that a few will be brought over to the
opinion of the majority, as may too often happen among jurors, whose
deliberations are in _private_, and whose impatience of confinement may
go further than real conviction, to produce the requisite unanimity.
That this happens not unfrequently in civil cases, there is too much
reason to believe; that it may also happen in criminal cases, especially
where the party accused is not one of their equals, might, not
unreasonably, be apprehended. In New-York, before the revolution, a
slave accused of a capital crime, should have been tried by a jury if
his master required it. This is, perhaps, still the law of that state.
Such a provision might not be amiss in this; but considering the
ordinary run of juries in the county-courts, I should presume the
privilege would be rarely insisted upon.

Slaves, we have seen, are now entitled to the benefit of clergy in all
cases where it is allowed to any other offenders, except in cases of
consulting, advising, or conspiring to rebel, or make insurrection; or
plotting or conspiring to murder any person; or preparing, exhibiting,
or administring medicine with an _ill_ intent. The same lenity was not
extended to them formerly. The act of 1748, c. 31, denied it to a slave
in case of manslaughter; or the felonious breaking and entering _any_
house, in the night time: or breaking and entering _any_ house in the
day time, and taking therefrom goods to the value of twenty shillings.
The act of 1764, c. 9, extended the benefit of clergy, to a slave
convicted of the manslaughter of a slave; and the act of 1772, c. 9,
extended it further, to a slave convicted of housebreaking in the night
time, unless such breaking be burglary; in the latter case, other
offenders would be equally deprived of it. But wherever the benefit of
clergy is allowed to a slave, the court, besides burning him in the hand
(the usual punishment inflicted on free persons) may inflict such
further corporal punishment as they may think fit [1794. c. 103.]; this
also seems to be the law in the case of free Negroes and mulattoes. By
the act of 1723, c. 4, it was enacted, that when _any Negroe_ or
_mulattoe_ shall be found, upon due proof made, or _pregnant
circumstances_, to have given false testimony, every such offender
shall, _without further trial_, have his ears successively nailed to the
pillory for the space of an hour, and then cut off, and moreover receive
thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, or such other punishment as the
court shall think proper, not extending to life or limb. This act, with
the exception of the words _pregnant circumstances_, was re-enacted in
1792. The punishment of perjury, in a _white_ person, is only a fine and
imprisonment. A slave convicted of hog-stealing, shall, for the first
offence, receive thirty-nine lashes: any other person twenty-five: but
the latter is also subject to a fine of thirty dollars, besides paying
eight dollars to the owner of the hog. The punishment for the second and
third offence, of this kind, is the same in the case of a free person,
as of a slave; namely, by the pillory and loss of ears, for the second
offence; the third is declared felony, to which clergy is, however,
allowed. The preceding are the only positive distinctions which now
remain between the punishment of a slave, and a white person, in those
cases, where the latter is liable to a determinate corporal punishment.
But we must not forget, that many actions, which are either not
punishable at all, when perpetrated by a white person, or at most, by
fine and imprisonment, only, are liable to severe corporal punishment,
when done by a slave; nay, even to death itself, in some cases. To go
abroad without a written permission; to keep or carry a gun, or other
weapon; to utter any seditious speech; to be present at any unlawful
assembly of slaves; to lift the hand in opposition to a white person,
unless wantonly assaulted, are all offences punishable by whipping
[1794. c. 103.]. To attempt the chastity of a white woman, forcibly, is
punishable by dismemberment: such an attempt would be a high misdemeanor
in a white free man, but the punishment would be far short of that of a
slave [Ibidem.]. To administer medicine without the order or consent of
the master, unless it _appear not to have been done with an ill intent_;
to _consult_, advise, or conspire, to rebel or make insurrection; or to
_conspire_, or _plot_ to _murder_ any person, we have seen, are all
capital offences, from which the benefit of clergy is utterly excluded.
But a _bare intention_ to commit a felony, is not punishable in the case
of a free white man; and even the attempt, if not attended with an
actual breach of the peace, or prevented by such circumstance; only, as
do not tend to lessen the guilt of the offender, is at most a
misdemeanor by the common law: and in statutable offences in general, to
consult, advise, and even to procure any person to commit a felony, does
not constitute the crime of felony in the adviser or procurer, unless
the felony be actually perpetrated.

From this view of our jurisprudence respecting slaves, we are
unavoidably led to remark, how frequently the laws of nature have been
set aside in favour of institutions, the pure result of prejudice,
usurpation, and tyranny. We have found actions, innocent, or
indifferent, punishable with a rigour scarcely due to any, but the most
atrocious, offences against civil society; justice distributed by an
unequal measure to the master and the slave; and even the hand of mercy
arrested, where mercy might have been extended to the wretched culprit,
had his complexion been the same with that of his judges: for, the short
period of ten days, between his condemnation and execution, was often
insufficient to obtain a pardon for a slave, convicted in a remote part
of the country, whilst a free man, condemned at the seat of government,
and tried before the governor himself, in whom the power of pardoning
was vested, had a respite of thirty days to implore the clemency of the
executive authority.--It may be urged, and I believe with truth, that
these rigours do not proceed from a sanguinary temper in the people of
Virginia, but from those political considerations indispensibly
necessary, where slavery prevails to any great extent: I am moreover
happy to observe that our police respecting this unhappy class of
people, is not only less rigorous than formerly, but perhaps milder than
in any other country[17] where there are so many slaves, or so large a
proportion of them, in respect to the free inhabitants: it is also, I
trust, unjust to censure the present generation for the existence of
slavery in Virginia: for I think it unquestionably true, that a very
large proportion of our fellow-citizens lament that as a misfortune,
which is imputed to them as a reproach; it being evident from what has
been already shewn upon the subject, that, _antecedent to the
revolution_, no exertion to abolish, or even to check the progress of,
slavery, in Virginia, could have received the smallest countenance from
the crown, without whose assent the united wishes and exertions of every
individual here, would have been wholly fruitless and ineffectual: it
is, perhaps, also demonstrable, that at no period since the revolution,
could the abolition of slavery in this state have been safely undertaken
until the foundations of our newly established governments had been
found capable of supporting the fabric itself, under any shock, which so
arduous an attempt might have produced. But these obstacles being now
happily removed, considerations of policy, as well as justice and
humanity, must evince the necessity of eradicating the evil, before it
becomes impossible to do it, without tearing up the roots of civil
society with it.

[Footnote 17: See Jefferson's Notes, 259.--The Marquis de Chatelleux's
Travels, I have not noted the page; the Law of Retribution, by Granville
Sharpe, pa. 151, 238, notes. The Just Limitation of Slavery, by the same
author; pa. 15, note. Ibidem, pa. 33, 50, Ib. Append. No. 2.
Encyclopédie. Tit. Esclave. Laws of Barbadoes, &c.]

Having in the preceding part of this enquiry shewn the origin and
foundation of slavery, or the manner in which men have become slaves, as
also who are liable to be retained in slavery, in Virginia, at present,
with the legal consequences attendant upon their condition; it only
remains to consider the mode by which slaves have been or may be
emancipated; and the legal consequences thereof, in this
state.--Manumission, among the Israelites, if the bondman were an
Hebrew, was enjoined after six years' service, by the Mosaical law,
unless the servant chose to continue with his master, in which case the
master carried him before the judges, and took an awl, and thrust it
through his ear into the door [Exod. c. 21. Deut. c. 15.], and from
thenceforth he became a servant for ever: but if he sent him away free,
he was bound to furnish him liberally out of his flock, and out of his
floor, and out of his wine-press [Ibid.]. Among the Romans, in the time
of the commonwealth, liberty could be conferred only three ways. By
testament, by the _census_, and by the _vindicta_, or lictor's rod. A
man was said to be free by the census, "_liber censu_," when his name
was inserted in the censor's roll, with the approbation of his master.
When he was freed by the vindicta, the master placing his hand upon the
head of the slave, said in the presence of the prætor, it is my desire
that this man may be free, "_hunc hominem liberem esse volo_;" to which
the prætor replied, I pronounce him free after the manner of the
Romans, "_dico cum liberum esse more quiritum_."--then the lictor,
receiving the _vindicta_, struck the new freed man several blows with
it, upon the head, face, and back, after which his name was registered
in the roll of freed-men, and his head being close shaved, a cap was
given him as a token of liberty [Harris's Just. in notes.]. Under the
imperial constitutions liberty might have been conferred by several
other methods, as in the face of the church, in the presence of friends,
or by letter, or by testament [Just. Inst. lib. 1. tit. 5. Ib. lib. 1.
tit. 6.].--But it was not in the power of every master to manumit at
will; for if it were done with an intent to defraud creditors, the act
was void; that is, if the master were insolvent at the time of
manumission, or became insolvent by manumission, and intentionally
manumitted his slave for the purpose of defrauding his creditors. A
minor, under the age of twenty years, could not manumit his slave but
for a just cause assigned, which must have been approved by a council,
consisting of the prætor, five senators, and five knights [Ib. Harris's
Just. in notes.].--In England, the mode of enfranchising villeins is
said to have been thus prescribed by a law of William the Conqueror. "If
any person is willing to enfranchise his _slave_, let him, with his
right hand, deliver the slave to the sheriff in a full county, proclaim
him exempt from the bond of servitude by manumission, shew him open
gates and ways, and deliver him _free arms_, to wit, a lance and a
sword; thereupon he is a free man [Harris's Inst. in notes.]."--But
after that period freedom was more generally conferred by deed, of which
Mr. Harris, in his notes upon Justinian, has furnished a precedent.

In what manner manumission was performed in this country during the
first century after the introduction of slavery does not appear: the act
of 1668, before mentioned [Ante, p. 36.], shews it to have been
practised before that period. In 1723 an act was passed, prohibiting the
manumission of slaves, upon any pretence whatsoever, except for
meritorious services, to be adjudged, and allowed by the governor and
council [1723. c. 4.]. This clause was re-enacted in 1748, and continued
to be the law, until after the revolution was accomplished. The number
of manumissions under such restrictions must necessarily have been very
few. In May 1782 an act passed authorizing, generally, the manumission
of slaves, but requiring such as might be set free, not being of sound
mind or body, or being above the age of forty-five years, or males under
twenty-one, or females under eighteen, to be supported by the person
liberating them, or out of his estate [May 1782. c. 21.]. The act of
manumission may be performed either by will, or by deed, under the hand
and seal of the party, acknowledged by him, or proved by two witnesses
in the court of the county where he resides. There is reason to believe
that great numbers have been emancipated since the passing of this act.
By the census of 1791 it appears that the number of free Negroes,
mulattoes and Indians in Virginia, was then 12,866. It would be a large
allowance, to suppose that there were 1800 free Negroes and mulattoes in
Virginia when the act took effect; so that upwards of ten thousand must
have been indebted to it for their freedom.[18] The number of Indians
and their descendants in Virginia at present, is too small to require
particular notice. The progress of emancipation in Virginia, is at this
time continual, but not rapid; a second census will enable us to form a
better judgment of it than at present. The act passed in 1792 accords in
some degree with the Justinian code [1794. c. 103.], by providing that
slaves emancipated may be taken in execution to satisfy any debt
contracted by the person emancipating them, before such emancipation is

[Footnote 18: There are _more_ free Negroes and mulattoes in Virginia
alone, than are to be found in the four New-England states, and Vermont
in addition to them. The progress of emancipation in this state is
therefore much greater than our _Eastern_ brethren may at first suppose.
There are only 1087 free Negroes and mulattoes in the States of
New-York, New-Jersey and Pennsylvania, _more_, than in Virginia. Those
who take a subject in the gross, have little idea of the result of an
exact scrutiny. Out of 20,348 inhabitants on the Eastern Shore of
Virginia 1185 were free Negroes and mulattoes when the census was taken.
The number is since much augmented.]

[Footnote 19: The act of 1795. c. 11. enacts, that any person held in
slavery may make complaint to a magistrate, or to the court of the
district county or corporation wherein he resides, and not elsewhere.
The magistrate, if the complaint be made to him, shall issue his warrant
to summon the owner before him, and compel him to give bond and security
to suffer the complainant to appear at the next court to petition the
court to be admitted to sue _in formâ pauperis_. If the owner refuse,
the magistrate shall order the complainant into the custody of the
officer serving the warrant, at the expence of the master, who shall
keep him until the sitting of the court, and then produce him before it.
Upon petition to the court, if the court be satisfied as to the material
facts, they shall assign the complainant council, who shall state the
facts with his opinion thereon to the court; and unless from the
circumstances so stated, and the opinion thereon given, the court shall
_see manifest reason to deny their interference_, they shall order the
clerk to issue process against the owner, and the complainant shall
remain in the custody of the sheriff until the owner shall give bond and
security to have him forthcoming to answer the judgment of the court.
And by the general law in case of pauper's suits; the complainants shall
have writs of subpoena gratis; and by the practice of the courts, he is
permitted to attend the taking the depositions of witnesses, and go and
come freely to and from court, for the prosecution of his suit.]

Among the Romans, the _libertini_, or freedmen, were formerly
distinguished by a threefold division [Just. Inst. lib. 1. tit. 5.].
They sometimes obtained what was called the greater liberty, thereby
becoming _Roman citizens_. To this privilege, those who were
enfranchised by testament, by the census, or by the vindicta, appear to
have been alone admitted: sometimes they obtained the lesser liberty
only, and became _Latins_; whose condition is thus described by
Justinian. "They never enjoyed the right of succession [to
estates].--For although they led the lives of free men, yet with their
last breath they lost both their lives and liberties; for their
possessions, like the goods of slaves, were detained by the manumittor
[Harris's Inst. lib. 3. tit. 8.]." Sometimes they obtained only the
inferior liberty, being called _dedititii_: such were slaves who had
been condemned as criminals, and afterwards obtained manumission through
the indulgence of their masters: their conditions was equalled with that
of conquered revolters, whom the Romans called, in reproach, _dedititii,
quia se suaque omnia dediderunt_: but all these distinctions were
abolished by Justinian [Inst. lib. 1. tit. 5. s. 3.], by whom all freed
men in general were made citizens of Rome, without regard to the form of
manumission.--In England, the presenting the villein with _free arms_,
seems to have been the symbol of his restoration to all the rights which
a feudatory was entitled to. With us, we have seen that emancipation
does not confer the rights of citizenship on the person emancipated; on
the contrary, both he and his posterity, of the same complexion with
himself, must always labour under many civil incapacities. If he is
absolved from personal restraint, or corporal punishment, by a master,
yet the laws restrain his actions in many instances, where there is none
upon a free white man. If he can maintain a suit, he cannot be a
witness, a juror, or a judge in any controversy between one of his own
complexion and a white person. If he can acquire property in lands, he
cannot exercise the right of suffrage, which such a property would
confer on his former master; much less can he assist in making those
laws by which he is bound. Yet, even under these disabilities, his
present condition bears an enviable pre-eminence over his former state.
Possessing the liberty of loco-motion, which was formerly denied him, it
is in his choice to submit to that civil inferiority, inseparably
attached to his condition in this country, or seek some more favourable
climate, where all distinctions between men are either totally
abolished, or less regarded than in this.

The extirpation of slavery from the United States, is a task equally
arduous and momentous. To restore the blessings of liberty to near a
million[20] of oppressed individuals, who have groaned under the yoke of
bondage, and to their descendants, is an object, which those who trust
in Providence, will be convinced would not be unaided by the divine
Author of our being, should we invoke his blessing upon our endeavours.
Yet human prudence forbids that we should precipitately engage in a work
of such hazard as a general and simultaneous emancipation. The mind of
man must in some measure be formed for his future condition. The early
impressions of obedience and submission, which slaves have received
among us, and the no less habitual arrogance and assumption of
superiority, among the whites, contribute, equally, to unfit the former
for _freedom_, and the latter for _equality_.[21] To expel them all at
once, from the United States, would in fact be to devote them only to a
lingering death by famine, by disease, and other accumulated miseries:
"We have in history but one picture of a similar enterprize, and there
we see it was necessary not only to open the sea by a miracle, for them
to pass, but more necessary to close it again to prevent their return
[Letter from Jas. Sullivan, Esq. to Dr. Belknap.]." To retain them among
us, would be nothing more than to throw so many of the human race upon
the earth without the means of subsistence: they would soon become idle,
profligate, and miserable. Unfit for their new condition, and unwilling
to return to their former laborious course, they would become the
caterpillars of the earth, and the tigers of the human race. The recent
history of the French West Indies exhibits a melancholy picture of the
probable consequences of a general, and momentary emancipation in any of
the states, where slavery has made considerable progress. In
Massachusetts the abolition of it was effected by a single stroke; a
clause in their constitution [Dr. Belknap.]: but the whites at that
time, were as sixty-five to one, in proportion to the blacks. The whole
number of free persons in the United States, south of Delaware state,
are 1,233,829, end there are 648,439 slaves; the proportion being less
than two to one. Of the cultivators of the earth in the same district,
it is probable that there are four slaves for one free white man.--To
discharge the former from their present condition, would be attended
with an immediate general famine, in those parts of the United States,
from which not all the productions of the other states, could deliver
them; similar evils might reasonably be apprehended from the adoption of
the measure by any one of the southern states; for in all of them the
proportion of slaves is too great, not to be attended with calamitous
effects, if they were immediately set free.[22] These are serious, I had
almost said unsurmountable obstacles, to general, simultaneous
emancipation.--There are other considerations not to be disregarded. A
great part of the _property_ of individuals consists in _slaves_. The
laws have sanctioned this species of property. Can the laws take away
the property of an individual without his own consent, or without a
_just compensation_? Will those who do not hold slaves agree to be taxed
to make this compensation? Creditors also, who have trusted their
debtors upon the faith of this visible property will be defrauded. If
justice demands the emancipation of the slave, she also, _under these
circumstances_, seems to plead for the owner, and for his creditor. The
claims of nature, it will be said are stronger than those which arise
from social institutions, only. I admit it, but nature also dictates to
us to provide for our _own_ safety, and authorizes all _necessary_
measures for that purpose. And we have shewn that our own security, nay,
our very existence, might be endangered by the hasty adoption of any
measure for the _immediate_ relief of the _whole_ of this unhappy race.
Must we then quit the subject, in despair of the success of any project
for the amendment of their, as well as our own, condition? I think
not.--Strenuously as I feel my mind opposed to a simultaneous
emancipation, for the reasons already mentioned, the abolition of
slavery in the United States, and especially in that state, to which I
am attached by every tie that nature and society form, is _now_ my
_first_, and will probably be my last, expiring wish. But here let me
avoid the imputation of inconsistency, by observing, that the abolition
of slavery may be effected without the _emancipation_ of a single slave;
without depriving any man of the _property_ which he _possesses_, and
without defrauding a creditor who has trusted him on the faith of that
property. The experiment in that mode has already been begun in some of
our sister states. Pennsylvania, under the auspices of the immortal
Franklin,[23] begun the work of gradual abolition of slavery in the year
1780, by enlisting nature herself, on the side of humanity. Connecticut
followed the example four years after.[24] New-York very lately made an
essay which miscarried by a very inconsiderable majority. Mr. Jefferson
informs us, that the committee of revisors, of which he was a member,
had prepared a bill for the emancipation of all slaves born after
passing that act. This is conformable to the Pennsylvania and
Connecticut laws.--Why the measure was not brought forward in the
general assembly I have never heard. Possibly because objections were
foreseen to that part of the bill which relates to the disposal of the
blacks, after they had attained a certain age.[25] It certainly seems
liable to many, both as to the policy and the practicability of it. To
establish such a colony in the territory of the United States, would
probably lay the foundation of intestine wars, which would terminate
only in their extirpation, or final expulsion. To attempt it in any
other quarter of the globe would be attended with the utmost cruelty to
the colonists, themselves, and the destruction of their whole race. If
the plan were at this moment in operation, it would require the annual
exportation of 12,000 persons. This requisite number must, for a series
of years be considerably increased, in order to keep pace with the
increasing population of those people. In twenty years it would amount
to upwards of twenty thousand persons; which is half the number which
are now supposed to be annually exported from Africa.--Where would a
fund to support this expence be found? Five times the present revenue of
the state would barely defray the charge of their passage. Where
provisions for their support after their arrival? Where those
necessaries which must preserve them from perishing?--Where a territory
sufficient to support them?--Or where could they be received as friends,
and not as invaders? To colonize them in the United States might seem
less difficult. If the territory to be assigned them were beyond the
settlements of the whites, would they not be put upon a forlorn hope
against the Indians? Would not the expence of transporting them thither,
and supporting them, at least for the first and second year, be also far
beyond the revenues and abilities of the state? The expence attending a
small army in that country hath been found enormous. To transport as
many colonists, annually, as we have shewn were necessary to eradicate
the evil, would probably require five times as much money as the support
of such an army. But the expence would not stop there: they must be
assisted and supported at least for another year after their arrival in
their new settlements. Suppose them arrived. Illiterate and ignorant as
they are, is it probable that they would be capable of instituting such
a government, in their new colony, as would be necessary for their own
internal happiness, or to secure them from destruction from without?
European emigrants, from whatever country they arrive, have been
accustomed to the restraint of laws, and to respect for government.
These people, accustomed to be ruled with a rod of iron, will not easily
submit to milder restraints. They would become hordes of vagabonds,
robbers and murderers. Without the aids of an enlightened policy,
morality, or religion, what else could be expected from their still
savage state, and debased condition?--"But why not retain and
_incorporate_ the _blacks into the state_?" This question has been well
answered by Mr. Jefferson,[26] and who is there so free from prejudices
among us, as candidly to declare that he has none against such a
measure? The recent scenes transacted in the French colonies in the West
Indies are enough to make one shudder with the apprehension of realizing
similar calamities in this country. Such probably would be the event of
an attempt to smother those prejudices which have been cherished for a
period of almost two centuries. Those who secretly favour, whilst they
affect to regret, domestic slavery, contend that in abolishing it, we
must also abolish that scion from it which I have denominated _civil_
slavery. That there must be no distinction of rights; that the
descendants of Africans, as men, have an equal claim to all civil
rights, as the descendants of Europeans; and upon being delivered from
the yoke of bondage have a right to be admitted to all the privileges of
a citizen.--But have not men when they enter into a state of society, a
right to admit, or exclude any description of persons, as they think
proper? If it be true, as Mr. Jefferson seems to suppose, that the
Africans are really an inferior race of mankind,[27] will not sound
policy advise their exclusion from a society in which they have not yet
been admitted to participate in civil rights; and even to guard against
such admission, at any future period, since it may eventually depreciate
the whole national character? And if prejudices have taken such deep
root in our minds, as to render it impossible to eradicate this opinion,
ought not so general an error, if it be one, to be respected? Shall we
not relieve the necessities of the naked diseased beggar, unless we will
invite him to a seat at our table; nor afford him shelter from the
inclemencies of the night air, unless we admit him also to share our
bed? To deny that we ought to abolish slavery, without incorporating the
Negroes into the state, and admitting them to a full participation of
all our civil and social rights, appears to me to rest upon a similar
foundation. The experiment so far as it has been already made among us,
proves that the emancipated blacks are not ambitious of civil rights. To
prevent the generation of such an ambition, appears to comport with
sound policy; for if it should ever rear its head, its partizans, as
well as its opponents, will be enlisted by nature herself, and always
ranged in formidable array against each other. We must therefore
endeavour to find some middle course, between the tyrannical and
iniquitous policy which holds so many human creatures in a state of
grievous bondage, and that which would turn loose a numerous, starving,
and enraged banditti, upon the innocent descendants of their former
oppressors. _Nature_, _time_, and _sound policy_ must co-operate with
each other to produce such a change: if either be neglected, the work
will be incomplete, dangerous, and not improbably destructive.

[Footnote 20: The number of slaves in the United States at the time of
the late census, was something under 700,000.]

[Footnote 21: Mr. Jefferson most forcibly paints the unhappy influence
on the manners of the people produced by the existence of slavery among
us. The whole commerce between master and slave, says he, is a perpetual
exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism
on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children
see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. This
quality is the germ of education in him. From his cradle to his grave he
is learning what he sees others do. If a parent had no other motive
either in his own philanthropy or his self love, for restraining the
intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should always be a
sufficient one that his child is present. But generally it is not
sufficient. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the
lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller
slaves, gives a loose to his worst of passions; and thus nursed,
educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it
with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his
manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. And with what
execrations would the statesman be loaded, who permitting one half the
citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms them
into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one
part, and the amor patriæ of the other. For if a slave can have a
country in this world, it must be any other in preference to that in
which he is born to live and labour for another; in which he must lock
up the faculties of his nature, contribute as far as depends on his
individual endeavours to the evanishment of the human race, or entail
his own miserable condition on the endless generations proceeding from
him. With the morals of the people, their industry also, is destroyed.
For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make
another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of
slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. And can
the liberties of a nation be ever thought secure when we have removed
their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that
these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated
but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that
God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: 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.--But it is
impossible to be temperate and to pursue this subject through the
various considerations of policy, of morals, of history, natural and
civil. We must be contented to hope they will force their way into every
one's mind. I think a change already perceptible, since the origin of
the present revolution. The spirit of the master is abating, that of the
slave 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
their masters, rather than by their extirpation. Notes on Virginia,

[Footnote 22: What is here advanced is not to be understood as implying
an opinion that the labour of slaves is more productive than that of
freemen.--The author of the Treatise on the Wealth of Nations, informs
us, "That it appears from the experience of all ages and nations, that
the work done by freemen comes cheaper in the end than that done by
slaves. That it is found to do so, even in Boston, New-York and
Philadelphia, where the wages of common labour are very high." Vol. 1.
pa. 123. Lond. edit. oct. Admitting this conclusion, it would not remove
the objection that emancipated slaves would not willingly labour.]

[Footnote 23: Doctor Franklin, it is said, drew the bill for the gradual
abolition of slavery in Pennsylvania.]

[Footnote 24: It is probable that similar laws have been passed in some
other states; but I have not been able to procure a note of them.]

[Footnote 25: The object of the amendment proposed to be offered to the
legislature, was to emancipate all slaves born after a certain period;
and further directing that they should continue with their parents to a
certain age, then be brought up, at the public expence, to tillage,
arts, or sciences, according to their geniuses, till the females should
be eighteen, and the males twenty-one years of age, when they should be
colonized to such a place as the circumstances of the time should render
most proper; sending them out with arms, implements of household and of
the handicraft arts, seeds, pairs of the useful domestic animals, &c. to
declare them a free and independent people, and extend to them our
alliance and protection, till they shall have acquired strength; and to
send vessels at the same time to other parts of the world for an equal
number of white inhabitants; to induce whom to migrate hither, proper
encouragements should be proposed. Notes on Virginia, 251.]

[Footnote 26: It will probably be asked, why not retain the blacks among
us and _incorporate them into the state_? Deep-rooted prejudices
entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections by the blacks, of
the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the _real
distinctions_ which _nature_ has made; and many other circumstances will
divide us into parties and produce convulsions, which will probably
never end but in the extermination of one or the other race. To these
objections which are political may be added others which are physical
and moral. The first difference which strikes us is that of colour.--&c.
The circumstance of superior beauty is thought worthy attention in the
propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; Why not in
that of man? &c. In general their existence appears to participate more
of sensation than reflection. Comparing them by their faculties of
memory, reason and imagination, it appears to me that in memory they are
equal to the whites; in reason much inferior; that in imagination they
are dull, tasteless and anamolous. &c. The improvement of the blacks in
body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites,
has been observed by every one, and proves that their inferiority is not
the effect merely of their condition of life. We know that among the
Romans, about the Augustan age, especially, the condition of their
slaves was much more deplorable, than that of the blacks on the
continent of America. Yet among the Romans their slaves were often their
rarest artists. They excelled too in science, insomuch as to be usually
employed as tutors to their masters' children. Epictetus, Terence, and
Phoedrus were slaves. But they were of the race of whites. It is not
their condition then, but nature, which has produced the distinction.
The opinion that they are inferior in the faculties of reason and
imagination, must be hazarded with great diffidence. To justify a
general conclusion requires many observations. &c.--I advance it
therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a
distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior
to the whites both in the endowments of body and mind. &c. This
unfortunate difference of colour, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful
obstacle to the emancipation of these people. Among the Romans
emancipation required but one effort. The slave, when made free, might
mix with, without staining, the blood of his master. But with us a
second is necessary, unknown to history.--See the passage at length,
Notes on Virginia, page 252 to 265.

"In the present case, it is not only the slave who is beneath his
master, it is the Negroe who is beneath the white man. No act of
enfranchisement can efface this unfortunate distinction." Chatelleux's
Travels in America.]

[Footnote 27: The celebrated David Hume, in his Essay on National
Character, advances the same opinion; Doctor Beattie, in his Essay on
Truth, controverts it with many powerful arguments. Early prejudices,
had we more satisfactory information than we can possibly possess on the
subject at present, would render an inhabitant of a country where Negroe
slavery prevails, an improper umpire between them.]

The plan therefore which I would presume to propose for the
consideration of my countrymen is such, as the number of slaves, the
difference of their nature, and habits, and the state of agriculture,
among us, might render it _expedient_, rather than _desirable_ to adopt:
and would partake partly of that proposed by Mr. Jefferson, and adopted
in other states; and partly of such cautionary restrictions, as a due
regard to situation and circumstances, and even to _general_ prejudices,
might recommend to those, who engage in so arduous, and perhaps
unprecedented an undertaking.

1. Let every female born after the adoption of the plan be free, and
transmit freedom to all her descendants, both male and female.

2. As a compensation to those persons, in whose families such females,
or their descendants may be born, for the expence and trouble of their
maintenance during infancy, let them serve such persons until the age of
twenty-eight years: let them then receive twenty dollars in money, two
suits of clothes, suited to the season, a hat, a pair of shoes, and two
blankets. If these things be not voluntarily done, let the county courts
enforce the performance, upon complaint.

3. Let all Negroe children be registered with the clerk of the county or
corporation court, where born, within one month after their birth: let
the person in whose family they are born take a copy of the register,
and deliver it to the mother, or if she die to the child, before it is
of the age of twenty-one years. Let any Negroe claiming to be free, and
above the age of puberty, be considered as of the age of twenty-eight
years, if he or she be not registered, as required.

4. Let all such Negroe servants be put on the same footing as white
servants and apprentices now are, in respect to food, raiment,
correction, and the assignment of their service from one to another.

5. Let the children of Negroes and mulattoes, born in the families of
their parents, be bound to service by the overseers of the poor, until
they shall attain the age of twenty-one years.--Let all above that age,
who are not housekeepers, nor have voluntarily bound themselves to
service for a year before the first day of February annually, be then
bound for the remainder of the year by the overseers of the poor. Let
the overseers of the poor receive fifteen per cent. of their wages, from
the person hiring them, as a compensation for their trouble, and ten per
cent. per annum out of the wages of such as they may bind apprentices.

6. If at the age of twenty-seven years, the master of a Negroe or
mulattoe servant be unwilling to pay his freedom dues, above mentioned,
at the expiration of the succeeding year, let him bring him into the
county court, clad and furnished with necessaries as before directed,
and pay into court five dollars, for the use of the servant, and
thereupon let the court direct him to be hired by the overseers of the
poor for the succeeding year, in the manner before directed.

7. Let no Negroe or mulattoe be capable of taking, holding, or
exercising, any public office, freehold, franchise or privilege, or any
estate in lands or tenements, other than a lease not exceeding
twenty-one years.--Nor of keeping, or bearing arms,[28] unless
authorised so to do by some act of the general assembly, whose duration
shall be limitted to three years. Nor of contracting matrimony with any
other than a Negroe or mulattoe; nor be an attorney; nor be a juror; nor
a witness in any court of judicature, except against; or between Negroes
and mulattoes. Nor be an executor or administrator; nor capable of
making any will or testament; nor maintain any real action; nor be a
trustee of lands or tenements himself, nor any other person to be a
trustee to him or to his use.

8. Let all persons born after the passing of the act, be considered as
entitled to the same mode of trial in criminal cases, as free Negroes
and mulattoes are now entitled to.

[Footnote 28: See Spirit of Laws, 12-15.----1. Black Com. 417.]

The restrictions in this place may appear to favour strongly of
prejudice: whoever proposes any plan for the abolition of slavery, will
find that he must either encounter, or accommodate himself to
prejudice.--I have preferred the latter; not that I pretend to be wholly
exempt from it, but that I might avoid as many obstacles as possible to
the completion of so desirable a work, as the abolition of slavery.
Though I am opposed to the banishment of the Negroes, I wish not to
encourage their future residence among us. By denying them the most
valuable privileges which civil government affords, I wished to render
it their inclination and their interest to seek those privileges in some
other climate. There is an immense unsettled territory on this
continent[29] more congenial to their natural constitutions than ours,
where they may perhaps be received upon more favourable terms than we
can permit them to remain with us. Emigrating in small numbers, they
will be able to effect settlements more easily than in large numbers;
and without the expence or danger of numerous colonies. By releasing
them from the yoke of bondage, and enabling them to seek happiness
wherever they can hope to find it, we surely confer a benefit, which no
one can sufficiently appreciate, who has not tasted of the bitter curse
of compulsory servitude. By excluding them from offices, the seeds of
ambition would be buried too deep, ever to germinate: by disarming them,
we may calm our apprehensions of their resentments arising from past
sufferings; by incapacitating them from holding lands, we should add one
inducement more to emigration, and effectually remove the foundation of
ambition, and party-struggles. Their personal rights, and their
property, though limited, would whilst they remain among us be under the
protection of the laws; and their condition not at all inferior to that
of the _labouring_ poor in most other countries. Under such an
arrangement we might reasonably hope, that time would either remove from
us a race of men, whom we wish not to incorporate with us, or obliterate
those prejudices, which now form an obstacle to such incorporation.

[Footnote 29: The immense territory of Louisiana, which extends as far
south as the lat. 25° and the two Floridas, would probably afford a
ready asylum for such as might choose to become Spanish subjects. How
far their political rights might be enlarged in these countries, is,
however questionable: but the climate is undoubtedly more favourable to
the African constitution than ours, and from this cause, it is not
improbable that emigrations from these states would in time be very

But it is not from the want of liberality to the emancipated race of
blacks that I apprehend the most serious objections to the plan I have
ventured to suggest.--Those slave holders (whose numbers I trust are
few) who have been in the habit of considering their fellow creatures as
no more than cattle, and the rest of the brute creation, will exclaim
that they are to be deprived of their _property_, without compensation.
Men who will shut their ears against this moral truth, that all men are
by nature _free_, and _equal_, will not even be convinced that they do
not possess a _property_ in an _unborn_ child: they will not distinguish
between allowing to _unborn_ generations the absolute and unalienable
rights of human nature, and taking away that which they _now possess_;
they will shut their ears against truth, should you tell them, the loss
of the mother's labour for nine months, and the maintenance of a child
for a dozen or fourteen years, is amply compensated by the services of
that child for as many years more, as he has been an expence to them.
But if the voice of reason, justice and humanity be not stifled by
sordid avarice, or unfeeling tyranny, it would be easy to convince even
those who have entertained such erroneous notions, that the right of one
man over another is neither founded in nature, nor in sound policy. That
it cannot extend to those _not in being_; that no man can in reality be
_deprived_ of what he doth not possess: that fourteen years labour by a
young person in the prime of life, is an ample compensation for a few
months of labour lost by the mother, and for the maintenance of a child,
in that coarse homely manner that Negroes are brought up: And lastly,
that a state of slavery is not only perfectly incompatible with the
principles of government, but with the safety and security of their
masters. History evinces this. At this moment we have the most awful
demonstrations of it. Shall we then neglect a duty, which every
consideration, moral, religious, political, or _selfish_, recommends.
Those who wish to postpone the measure, do not reflect that every day
renders the task more arduous to be performed. We have now 300,000
slaves among us. Thirty years hence we shall have double the number. In
sixty years we shall have 1,200,000. And in less than another century
from this day, even that enormous number will be doubled. Milo acquired
strength enough to carry an ox, by beginning with the ox while he was
yet a calf. If we complain that the calf is too heavy for our shoulders,
what will not the ox be?

To such as apprehend danger to our agricultural interest, and the
depriving the families of those whose principal reliance is upon their
slaves, of support, it will be proper to submit a view of the gradual
operation, and effects of this plan. They will no doubt be surprized to
hear, that whenever it is adopted, the number of slaves will not be
diminished for forty years after it takes place; that it will even
encrease for thirty years; that at the distance of sixty years, there
will be one-third of the number at its first commencement: that it will
require _above a century_ to complete it; and that the number of blacks
_under twenty-eight_, and consequently bound to service, in the families
they are born in, will always be at least as great, as the present
number of slaves. These circumstances I trust will remove many
objections, and that they are truly stated will appear upon enquiry.[30]
It will further appear, that females only will arrive at the age of
emancipation within the first forty-five years; all the males during
that period, continuing either in slavery, or bound to service till the
age of twenty-eight years. The earth cannot want cultivators, whilst our
population increases as at present, and three-fourths of those employed
therein are held to service, and the remainder compellable to labour.
For we must not lose sight of this important consideration, that these
people must be _bound_ to labour, if they do not _voluntarily_ engage
therein. Their faculties are at present only calculated for that object;
if they be not employed therein they will become drones of the worst
description. In absolving them from the yoke of slavery, we must not
forget the interests of the society. Those interests require the
exertions of every individual in some mode or other; and those who have
not wherewith to support themselves honestly without corporal labour,
whatever be their complexion, ought to be compelled to labour. This is
the case in England, where domestic slavery has long been unknown. It
must also be the case in every well ordered society; and where the
numbers of persons without property increase, there the coertion of the
laws becomes more immediately requisite. The proposed plan would
necessarily have this effect, and therefore ought to be accompanied with
such a regulation. Though the rigours of our police in respect to this
unhappy race ought to be softened, yet, its regularity, and punctual
administration should be increased, rather than relaxed. If we doubt the
propriety of such measures, what must we think of the situation of our
country, when instead of 300,000, we shall have more than _two millions_
of SLAVES among us? This _must happen within a_ CENTURY, if we do not
set about the abolition of slavery. Will not our posterity curse the
days of their nativity with all the anguish of Job? Will they not
execrate the memory of those ancestors, who, having it in their power to
avert evil, have, like their first parents, entailed a curse upon all
future generations? We know that the rigour of the laws respecting
slaves unavoidably must increase with their numbers: What a
blood-stained code must that be which is calculated for the restraint of
_millions_ held in bondage! Such must our unhappy country exhibit within
a century, unless we are both wise and just enough to avert from
posterity the calamity and reproach, which are otherwise unavoidable.

[Footnote 30: As it may not be unacceptable to some readers to observe
the operation of this plan, I shall subjoin the following statement:


1. The number of slaves in Virginia by the late census being found to be
292,427, they may now, in round numbers be estimated at 300,000.

2. Let it be supposed that the males and females are nearly or
altogether equal in number.

3. According to Dr. Franklin, the people of America double their numbers
in about twenty-eight years; and according to Mr. Jefferson, the negroes
increase as fast as the whites, they will therefore double, at least
every thirty years.

4. Let it be supposed that in thirty years one half of the present race
of negroes will be extinct.

5. Let it be supposed that in forty-five years there will not remain
more than one-fifth of the present race alive.

6. Let it be likewise supposed, that in sixty years the whole of the
present race will be extinct.

7. For conciseness sake, let the present race be called _ante-nati_,
those born after the adoption of the plan, _post-nati_.


1. That the present number of slaves being 300,000.

2. In thirty years their numbers will amount to 600,000.

3. But at that period as one half of them will be extinct, (rem. 4.)
their numbers will stand thus:

Ante-nati, 150,000

Post-nati, 450,000
                                             ---- 600,000.

4. The mean increase of the post-nati for
the next thirty years will therefore be 450000/30, annually,
or 15,000.

5. If one half of these be males, who are still
to remain slaves, there will in the first sixteen years,
be born 120,000.

6. After the first sixteen years, the post-nati females will
begin to breed; the proportion of males born to slavery in the next
twelve years may be estimated at one-fourth of the whole number
born after the commencement of that period. Their number
will be 52,000.

7. The number of _slaves_ living in Virginia at the end of _thirty_
years from the adoption of the plan, will be, ante-nati
(prop. 3.) 150,000

Post-nati males born in the first
16 years, 120,000

Post-nati males born in the last
12 years, 52,500

                                             ---- 322,500.

8. The number of _negroes_ at the same time will stand thus:

Slaves, 322,500

free born, 277,500

                                             ---- 600,000.

9. After twenty-eight years from the first adoption, this plan of
gradual emancipation will first begin to manifest its effects, by the
complete emancipation of one twenty-eighth part of the post-nati free
born during that period each succeeding year, for twenty-eight years
more; their numbers will be, 277500/28, or 9,910.

These will be all females.

10. It being admitted that the negroes double every thirty years, the
supposition that in forty-five years, their numbers will be half as many
more as in thirty, will not be very erroneous, if so, the whole race of
them at that period will be 900,000.

11. Their numbers will stand thus:

Ante-nati, 60,000

Post-nati, 840,000

                                             ---- 900,000.

12. After twenty-eight years are past, the number of slaves born must
continually diminish. Suppose their number born in the last 17 years, to
be one-fourth as many as those born in the preceding twelve years, they
will be 52500/4, or 13,125.

13. The slaves in Virginia in forty-five years will then be,
ante-nati, 60,000

Post-nati males born in the first
sixteen years, 120,000

Ditto, born in the next
twelve years 52,500

Ditto, born in the last
seventeen years, 13,125

                                             ---- 245,625.

At this period the emancipation of males will begin.

14. But after twenty eight years it has been shewn that 9,910 negroes
will annually arrive at the age of emancipation, their whole number in
forty-five years will be 168,470.

15. The state of the negroes at the end of 45 years, will then be,
slaves, 245,625

Post-nati fully emancipated
(females), 168,470

Post-nati not
emancipated, 485,905

                                             ---- 900,000.

16. In sixty years the whole number of negroes will be


17. At that period the whole of the present race will be extinct; and we
may also infer that one half of those born in the first thirty years
will be also extinct; the number of slaves born in that period has been
shewn, (prop. 7.) to be 172,500, the number of these then living will be
172,500/2, or 86,250.

18. One half of the post-nati free born, during that period, being now
fully emancipated, may be likewise presumed to be extinct; their numbers
(prop. 8.) will be, 277,500/2, or 138,750.

19. The state of the negroes at the end of sixty years, will therefore

Slaves born during the first
thirty years, 86,250

Ditto born after
that period, 13,125

Post-nati fully
emancipated, 138,750

under 28 years
of age, 961,875

                                           ---- 1,200,000.

20. At the end of ninety years the number of negroes will be


21. Of this number, those only born after the first thirty years, being
supposed to be living, the number of slaves (prop. 12) will then be
reduced to 13,125.

22. And as the last mentioned number of slaves are supposed to be born
within forty-five years, their whole number will be extinct in fifteen
years more, that is, in _one hundred =and= five_ years from the first
adoption of the plan.

23. By prop. 19. it appears, that out of 1,200,000 negroes, there will
then be 961,875 under the age of twenty-eight years, the period of

24. We may therefore conclude, that from _two-thirds_ to _three-fourths_
of the whole number of blacks will _always_ be liable to service.]

I am not vain enough to presume the plan I have suggested entirely free
from objection; nor that in offering my own ideas on the subject, I have
been more fortunate than others: but from the communication of sentiment
between those who lament the evil, it is possible that an effectual
remedy may at length be discovered. Whenever that happens the golden age
of our country will begin. Till then,

----_Non hospes ab hospite tutus,

Non Herus à Famulie: fratrum quoque gratia rara._


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