« EdellinenJatka »
Slavery; so that at the adoption of the National Constitution Slavery did not exist in Massachusetts. That this undoubted history should have been disregarded by the Chief Justice is more astonishing, when it is considered that the conclusion belonged to the jurisprudence of our country. In a case well known to all interested in the history of Slavery, and especially to lawyers, decided in 1836, Chief Justice Shaw said: "How, or by what act particularly, Slavery was abolished in Massachusetts, whether by the adoption of the opinion in Somerset's case, as a declaration and modification of the Common Law, or by the Declaration of Independence, or by the [State] Constitution of 1780, it is not now very easy to determine; and it is rather a matter of curiosity than of utility, it being agreed on all hands, that, if not abolished before, it was so by the Declaration of Rights." And yet even these words are forgotten in this fatal decision.
Here we must mention Rhode Island with honor. This State, planted by Roger Williams, may point with pride to her early record on Slavery. At a General Court held May 19, 1652, after setting forth, that "there is a common course practised amongst Englishmen to buy negroes, to that end they may have them for service or slaves forever," it was ordered, "that no black mankind, or white, being forced by covenant bond, or otherwise, to serve any man or his assigns longer than ten years, or until they come to be twenty-four years of age, if they be taken in under fourteen, from the time of their coming within the liberties of this colony."2 If Rhode Island afterwards
1 Commonwealth v. Aves, 18 Pickering, R., 209.
2 Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Vol. I. p. 243.
departed from this law, it existed, nevertheless, as an example not to be forgotten by the Chief Justice. Nor should he have forgotten that Pennsylvania, as early as 1712, passed an act to prevent the increase. of slaves, although it was annulled by the Crown,1 and that this same State enacted, March 1, 1780, that all persons born in that State after that day were free at the age of twenty-eight years.2 But all this is inconsistent with the famous "axiom" on which the Chief Justice founded his fearful superstructure.
I need go no further than the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Curtis, on this very occasion, to find, that, "at the time of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, all free native-born inhabitants of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from Africa slaves, were not only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the other necessary qualifications possessed the franchise of electors on equal terms with other citizens."3 Was all this forgotten by the Chief Justice? But how could he forget the decision of the admirable Judge Gaston, of North Carolina, who, describing the State Constitution of 1776, says, that it 'extended the elective franchise to every freeman who had arrived at the age of twenty-one and paid a public tax; and it is a matter of universal notoriety, that, under it, free persons, without regard to color, claimed and exercised the franchise, until it was taken from
1 Act to prevent the Importation of Negroes and Indians, June 7. 1712: Laws, ed Dallas (Philadelphia, 1797), Vol. I. p. 93; Archives, ed. Hazard, Vol. I. pp. 160, 162.
2 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery: Laws, ed. Dallas, Vol. I. p. 838.
8 Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 Howard, R., 52, 578.
free men of color a few years since by our amended Constitution"?1
Strangely, he forgets also an important passage of history, being nothing less than the point-blank refusal of the Continental Congress to insert the word “white” in the Articles of Confederation. The question came up June 25, 1778, on these words: "The Free Inhabitants of each of these States (paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted) shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States." The delegates from South Carolina, acting in the spirit of the Dred Scott decision, moved, in behalf of their State, to limit this guaranty to "free white inhabitants." On the question of inserting the word "white," eleven States voted, two in favor of the insertion, one was divided, and eight were against it. South Carolina, not disheartened, made another attempt, by moving to add, after the words "the several States," the further clause, "according to the law of such States respectively for the government of their own free white inhabitants," thus seeking again to limit the operation. of this guaranty. This proposition was also voted down by the same decisive majority of eight to three.2 Such was the authoritative testimony of our fathers. And in harmony with this action was the Resolution for the Temporary Government of the Western Territory "ceded or to be ceded by individual States to the United States," dated April 23, 1784, and drawn by Jefferson, and also the famous Ordinance for the Government of the Northwestern Territory, drawn by Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, adopted by the Con
1 State v. Manuel, 4 Devereux & Battle, R., 25.
2 Journals of Congress, Vol. III. p. 503; Vol. IV. pp. 379, 380.
federation July 13, 1787, in both of which the voters. were without distinction of color.
Still more incomprehensible is the assertion of the Chief Justice, when we glance at the political literature of our country. Not only in Massachusetts, but elsewhere, the "axiom" of the Chief Justice, "which no one thought of disputing, or supposed to be open to dispute," was denied. Nobody did this in more energetic terms than General Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, who, in a letter to Granville Sharp, wrote, under date of October 13, 1776: "My friends and I settled the colony of Georgia, and by charter were established trustees, to make laws, &c. We determined not to suffer Slavery there. . . . . We would not suffer Slavery (which is against the Gospel, as well as the fundamental law of England) to be authorized under our authority; we refused, as trustees, to make a law permitting such a horrid crime." In the same spirit, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who had witnessed the workings of Slavery on our continent and in the West Indies, declared "American Slavery the vilest that ever saw the sun," and the execrable sum of all villanies." "Men-buyers" he stigmatizes as "exactly on a level with men-stealers," the slaveholder as "partaker with a thief, and not a jot honester," and the means whereby slaves are procured as "nothing near so innocent as picking of pockets, housebreaking, or robbery upon the highway." 2 So also spoke James Otis, in his famous pamphlet entitled "The Rights of the British Colonists Asserted
1 Hoare's Memoirs of Granville Sharp (London, 1820), p. 157.
2 Letter to a Friend, February 26, 1791; Journal, February 12, 1772; Thoughts upon Slavery, V. 5: Works (New York, 1856), Vol. VII. p. 237; Vol. IV. p. 366; Vol. VI. p. 292.
and Proved," first published in 1764, and reprinted in London, when he said: "The Colonists are, by the Law of Nature, free-born, as, indeed, all men are, white or black. . . . . Does it follow that it is right to enslave a man because he is black? Will short curled hair, like wool, instead of Christian hair, as it is called by those whose hearts are as hard as the nether millstone, help the argument? Can any logical inference in favor of Slavery be drawn from a flat nose, a long or a short face?" And so spoke Benjamin Rush, the patriot physician of Philadelphia, in "An Address to the Inhabitants of the British Settlements on the Slavery of the Negroes in America," where Slavery is exhibited as "repugnant to the genius of Christianity" and inconsistent with "the justice and goodness of the Supreme Being," and "a Christian slave" is called "a contradiction in terms."2 To these testimonies add the familiar words of statesmen, especially of Patrick Henry, "It is a debt that we owe to the purity of our religion, to show that it is at variance with that law that warrants Slavery,"3- and of Jefferson, in that memorable utterance, prompted by Slavery, "I tremble for my country, when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."4 All these sayings, directly repellent to the allegation of the Chief Justice, have often been cited in public speech, and most of them appear in a work entitled "Slavery and Antislavery,” by that devoted Abolitionist, William Goodell, published several years before the opinion of the Chief Justice.
1 Rights of the British Colonies, p. 43.
2 Address (Philadelphia, 1773, 2d edit.), with a Vindication of the same, pp. 8, 15, 52.
3 Letter to Robert Pleasants, January 18, 1773: Goodell's Slavery and Antislavery, p. 70, note.
4 Notes on Virginia, Query XVIII.