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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 926   View pdf image (33K)
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crated fifteen thousand negroes, for which no
remuneration was ever made.
Mr. JONES, of Somerset. Will the gentle-
man from Washington (Mr. Negley) allow
me to interrupt him for a moment? I desire
the gentleman to state whether they were all
liberated upon the ground that they were not
held in slavery in Great Britain by any law ?
and whether he means to say that that deci-
sion destroyed the rights of the masters to
their slaves in the British colonies?
Mr. NEGLEY. They were slaves I under-
stand that bad gotten to England. A Mr.
Stewart, from one of the colonies, claimed
the right to take back the slave Somerset and
sell him. The negro had been in England for
several years, and took it into his head that
he was free. Stewart seized him and had
him put on board a vessel, from which, on a
writ of habeas corpus, be was remanded be-
fore the court. The question came up, and
was decided, and Somerset was declared free.
And there were fifteen thousand negroes in
England in the same predicament with Som-
erset. If that decision had not been made,
Somerset would have been sent to the colo-
nies and sold, and Stewart, the master, would
have received the money. But that decision
destroyed all right, title and interest in those
negroes in England who were held in a simi-
lar condition. The judge, estimating them at
a value of 50 each, says that that decision
would work a destruction of about 700,000 ;
or between $3,000,000 and $4,000,000. Now
that is the principle in that decision which
Lord Mansfield gave, and I think it pretty
good authority to justify us, and especially
so when we consider, and when we honestly
believe, that the slaveholders in Maryland
never had any right to their negroes at all.
Mr. CHAMBERS. Let the courts give that de-
cision, and it will be all right enough,
Mr. NEGLEY. What is the foundation of
slavery? The civil law expressly says that
the only foundation for slavery is capture in
war. The civil law says that slavery is the
holding of one man against his will under the
dominion of another, which is contrary to
nature. Now, were the slaves in this coun-
try originally captured in war on the coast
of Africa? No, sir; parties went there, or
sent their agents there, out of mere love of
money, and seized these negroes without
waging any war. Therefore the original
title which the original owners of slaves in
these colonies possessed, was not the only
one recognized by the civil law, that is, cap-
tures in war. They had nothing but the
thief's title; the public marauder's title; a
title something like that which the rebels
have to the horses they stole a few days ago
in our State. The slaveholder's title is not a
bit better. The right is not acknowledged
by any principle of law in the law of na-
tions. There is no principle of law in the
law of nations in all time past that acknowl-
edges their right. The foundation of slavery
was capture in war; and after that, of course,
bargain and sale. The fundamental founda-
tion was capture in war. Now, these negroes
were not captured in war. They were stolen
from the coast of Africa, and were brought
here, where they have since been held by a
sort of consent, but without any moral
right; and without any right acknowledged
by the laws of nations in times past; even
.away back amid epochs of barbarism and
paganism of the worst kind. In civilized
times we do not have the foundation for
slavery that the old pagans had, because
slaves with us are not lawful captives of war.
Therefore we say, you have no right to your
negro slaves; you have no property in them.
Even if you could have the right of property
in them according to the civil law, you have
not brought yourselves within the purview
of that law. You have nothing but the
thief's title, which no lapse of time can care,
and which has not been cured. And then it
is in violation of public justice and public
right. Therefore you have no title to the
property and you are not entitled to remu-
In the next place, if you had any species of
title, is there any value in this property now ?
It is just as insecure as it can be. You
cannot hold the negro without his consent.
If you attempt to exercise the right of master
over him he runs away, and what remedy
have you? You cannot go after him and
catch him and bring him home. That species
of property is just as valueless as the partridge
that comes upon your farm. If you do not
kill it or seize it while it is on your place,
just as soon as it is beyond your reach you
have no right to it. Therefore there is no
value in this species of property. You could
not to-day, if you should put it up to auc-
tion, get anything for it. Therefore what
right have you to go before the people of
Maryland, and ask them to pay you for some-
thing that is of no value to you? It is not
that we wish improperly to deprive you of
your property. But in the first place, slave-
holders have no moral right to their property.
In the next place, if they had, it is now ut-
terly without value.
Suppose a man were to sell a horse to his
neighbor, and it should prove that at the time
of the sale he was fatally diseased. And
suppose the neighbor gave his note for it,
and the horse should die within a day or two
after the sale, could the party selling the
horse go into court, sue upon the note, and
recover the purchase money? Would any
court award payment in the face of the fact
that there was no value in the animal at the
time of the sale; that he had then in him
the seeds of inevitable destruction? It would
be a . . . pactum. Therefore, upon the
same principle, the holders of slaves here are
not entitled to remuneration.

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention
Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 926   View pdf image (33K)
 Jump to  

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