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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 609   View pdf image (33K)
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609
they are not to be violated but by his wrath ?
Indeed I tremble for my country when I re-
member that God is just; that His justice can
not sleep forever; that considering numbers,
nature and natural means only, a revolution
of the wheels of fortune, in exchange of situ-
ations is among possible events; that it may
become probable by supernatural interfer-
ence I The Almighty has no attribute which
can take sides with us in such a contest."
In Jefferson's exposition of the rights of
British America, he said :
"The abolition of domestic slavery is the
greatest object of desire in these Colonies
where it was unhappily introduced in their
infancy.''
In the original draft of the Declaration of
Independence, which is known to be from the
pen of Jefferson, he makes this charge against
the King of Britain :
"He has waged cruel war against human
nature itself, violating the most sacred rights
of life and liberty in the persons of a distant
people who never offended him; captivating
and carrying them into slavery in another
hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in
their transportation thither. This piratical
warfare, the approbrium of infidel powers, is
the warfare of the Christian king of Great
Britain. Determined to keep a market where
men should he bought and sold, he has at
length prostituted his negative for suppress-
ing any legislative attempt to prohibit and
restrain this execrable commerce."
Passing by many letters, I come down to
1814, when in a letter to a friend he uses this
language:
" Your favor of July 31st is duly received
and read with peculiar pleasure. The senti-
ments do honor to the head and heart of the
writer. Mine on the subject of negro slavery
have long been in the possession of the pub-
lic, and time has only served to give them
stronger root. The love of justice and the
love of country plead equally the cause of
these people, and it is a reproach to us that
they should have pleaded it so long in vain."
Again he says:
" What an incomprehensible machine is
man! who can endure toil, famine, stripes,
imprisonment, and death itself, in vindication
of his own liberties; and the next moment be
deaf to all those motives whose power sup-
ported him through his trial, and inflict on
his fellow-man a bondage, one hour of which
is fraught with more misery than ages of
that which he rose in rebellion to oppose,"
In a letter to Jam's Heaton, May 20,
1826, six weeks before his death, he uses this
language:
"My sentiments have been forty years he-
fore the public. Had I repeated them forty
times, they would have only become the more
state and threadbare. Although I shall not
live to see them consummated they will not die
with me."
Here then is the testimony of Mr. Jefferson
up almost to the very day of his death, which
I think is a fit answer to the argument of the
gentleman from Charles (Mr. Ed-leu) that
slaveholders in life and in death have borne
testimony in favor of slavery.
One of the most singular arguments made
by the gentleman from Charles was that
slavery was introduced into this country by
common law. It is true, he said afterwards
the common law of Maryland, and there is
nothing more true than that. But the com-
mon law of England condemns slavery, and
their writers upon law condemn it. But the
gentleman when he uses the words—"the
common law of Maryland,"—may well say it
supports slavery; for there is no law more
common in our code than the laws bolstering
up this institution of slavery. Indeed, that
was one of his particular points; that the in-
stitution of slavery was so guaranteed, and so
protected, and so guarded by law, that it was
a breach of faith to touch it. Yes, it is
well protected. Turn to your code and see
how numerous are your enactments bolster-
ing up and fortifying the institution. That
is a proof to my mind of the innate weakness
of the institution.
Suppose you were to go out of Annapolis,
and meet a man on the road with an immense
load of poles and props. You ask the man
what he is going to do with them, and he
says he is going down to the State house with
them to prop it up. Of course the idea would
be at once suggested to your mind that the
State house was in danger of falling down.
These very props to slavery show the innate
weakness of the institution. The roost un-
usual, cruel, inhuman, and unchristian laws
are passed lo prevent persons from interfering
with it. The whip abounds in all these en-
actments. Now, to show the injustice of these
laws—suppose a slave is killed in an attempt
being made to capture him. The price of
that slave is paid to the owner by the com-
mon people, the working people of the coun-
try, it may so happen that the only son of
a widow is called upon by the sheriff to assist
in capturing a runaway negro, and in the
contest the son is killed, and the widow is
thus deprived of the support of her old age.
The wealthy slaveholder is paid for the des-
perate negro who is killed, but who compen-
sates the widowed mother for the loss of her
son? Is there any justice in that?
All these laws, so numerous and so com-
mon in Maryland, are the most execrable and
detestable, and show clearly that the institu-
tion of slavery is so opposed to common
sense and the improvements and civilization
of the age, that it could not stand for a day
without these props to keep it up.
The gentleman says we cannot abolish
slavery without a breach of faith, because they
have been hedging it around and propping it
up with this common law of Maryland, which


 
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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 609   View pdf image (33K)
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