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made to persons in the slave-holding districts, in anticipation or fraud of the law. Thus many unfortunate men, whose posterity by law would be free, or whose personal servitude would expire at a given period, by being sent beyond the pale of our jurisdiction, became bound by new and infrangible fetters. In the adjoining states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, legal servitude survives. If a sentiment has been imbibed in either, or all of these, unfavourable to its continuance, it is only justice and candour to admit that it has arisen from the efforts of their own philanthropists, and the influence of those internal causes which foreign argument or remonstrance could neither prevent nor accelerate.
The whole South may be appealed to for the truth of the assertion, that certain measures ascribed there to the Abolition Societies, in exciting estrangement and hostility towards the North, have had the effect of silencing inquiry into the justice or policy of the system. Ill-judging individuals have greatly contributed to this alienation and repugnance. Assuming, as a principle, that man could not be legitimately the subject of property, it was thought to be a meritorious act to screen from re-capture, the fugitive who should seek an asylum within our borders. Numerous fugitives from the southern states have thus been enabled, either by connivance or active assistance, to elude the pursuit of their masters. In vain was it alleged, that the re-delivery of the slave to his legal owner, was a right recognised in the federal Constitution, and protected by express legislative enactment.* In vain was it predicted that such resistance
* The 2d Section of the 4th Art. of the Constitution of the United States provides, that "no person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such labour or service is due.” A similar provision in regard to fugitives from justice, immediately precedes this rule in regard to slaves. The learned Du Ponceau, in his “Brief View of the Constitution of the United States," thus expresses his sense of this two-fold provision, page 45: “Fugitives from justice, and from personal service or labour, are to be delivered up, on being demanded in the manner prescribed by the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof." Accordingly, an
to rights, acknowledged by the laws of a sister state, would kindle into a flame those jealousies and suspicions which the accidents of commerce too frequently engender between independent and contiguous states. In vain were his abettors reminded of the effects which such interference must inevitably produce, in tightening the bonds of the slave by all such additional cords as the security of his person at home would render necessary. In vain were they admonished that the retention of a fugitive would prove injurious to the interests of Philadelphia, by the invitation it offered to others to make this city their refuge. In vain were they solemnly adjured, that by exciting indignant feelings at the south, they marred the prospect of legislative emancipation—that by concealing or harbouring a few runaways, sometimes the worst of the class, they forged new manacles for those who remained in bondage. Persuasion and remonstrance too often proved wholly ineffectual; for what could these effect against a line of conduct prompted by compassion for the slave, and the belief that it was a sacred duty to protect him?*
act of Congress was passed on the 12th of February, 1793, entitled, “An act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters." The object of this enactment was to point out the mode by which fugitive slaves shall be restored to their masters in the states from which they may have escaped. The Abolition Act of Pennsylvania, which became a law upwards of seven years before the adoption of thc Constitution of the United States, is very explicit upon the subject of fugitive slaves from other States, although it aimed at the ultimate destruction of our domestic slavery. The 11th section provides, “ that the said act, or any thing contained in it, should not give any relief or shelter to any absconding or runaway negro or mulatto slave or servant, who had absented himself, or should absent himself from his or her owner, master, or mistress, residing in any other state or country, but such owner, master, or mistress should have like right and aid to demand, claim, and take away his slave or servant, as he might have had in case the said act had not been made.” It can hardly create surprise, that the slaveholder, smarting under pecuniary loss, should feel little respect for the man whose philanthropy could lead him to violate rights which were thus recog. nised by the Constitution of the United States, by act of Congress, and by the local legislation of his own state.
* Among the old abolitionists who paid respect to the legal institutions of the country, I may name the late Elisha Tyson, of Baltimore, whose efforts in the cause of abolition were so successful, that he is said to have been instrumental in liberating, during his life, two thousand slaves from bondage! His intelligent biographer says: “During the whole course of Mr. Tyson's philanthropic exertions, he was strongly characterized for the profound deference which he paid to the laws of the land. * * * Not only because this is one of the conditions upon which every citizen has a right to continue in the community, but also because the encouraging of disobedience to the laws in one respect, would be the promoting of it in another; disobedience would grow into rebellion, and rebellion end in the total subversion of the state. It was for these reasons that his appeals in behalf of the persecuted Africans were made either to the clemency of individuals, or to the justice of the civil judge. * * * But those cases wherein argument and persuasion were unavailable, he submitted to the legal tribunals of the country; and having placed them there, left them to the future care of those whose oaths bound them to do justice.”—Life of Elisha Tyson, p. 13, 14.
I do not impute to the Society, as a body, the maintenance of such principles nor their reduction into practice. Its venerable and distinguished President* never would sanction or connive at a course of action so hostile to sound policy, and the dominion of municipal and constitutional law. But whoever may have been instrumental in producing it, the consequence is a decided repugnance at the South to all the acts of Abolition Societies. Their counsels are derided or bitterly laughed at, and their speeches and tracts, being branded as incendiary,' are neither listened to nor regarded. Nothing emanating from such a quarter, receives the decency of respect or attention. When the tranquillity of sober reflection is disturbed by objects of excitement, it is easy to adopt extravagant sentiments and to suggest new and plausible reasons in their defence. It was in this state of the public sensibilities at the South, that the doctrine of state rights was appealed to for the purpose of opposing the encroachments of Northern philanthropists. The cry was heard, that their laws were insulted and their property invaded by men who had nothing to lose by the toleration or extinction of slavery; that a society of another state which had abolished its domestic system, were assailing their own local institutions. The pride of the South coming to the aid of its passions and interest soon extinguished all hope of affecting their system of slavery, except through the agency of bodies formed by themselves, and of measures in which they could personally co-operate. Legislative emancipation, as a phantom, thus eluded their grasp. Other important objects now claimed their attention. These were the destruction of the slave trade; the protection of the personal rights of the man of colour; and the exaltation of his moral and mental being. The department of elevating the negro, a duty of the most pleasing but delicate and arduous nature, must, if properly understood, lead to the most beneficial results. In this province, so peculiarly and justly their own, they have laboured with an ardour which no difficulties could cool, no opposition extinguish. I claim to be an humble advocate of African rights, and a determined enemy to African oppression. I would place them where their personal merits would entitle them to stand, maugre all the baneful prejudices which their distinctive condition has fomented. But do the laws of Pennsylvania deny to them any civil or political privilege ? Do they invidiously point out and distinguish the freeman, because he wears a dark complexion,
* William Rawle LL. D., the author of the well known and able work on the Constitution of the United States.
“ The shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun ?”
The freeman of colour is here constituted a free citizen, with all the incidents of absolute denization. But though in possession of all the freedom which laws can confer, and aided by a society who have taught him the use of letters and the obligations of moral and religious duty, he is yet very low in the scale of moral virtue. In elucidation of this, a reference to the statistics of our prisons and penitentiaries is all that is requisite. In the year 1827, when the white population of Pennsylvania amounted to one million two hundred thousand, and the black only to thirty thousand souls, the criminals confined at the penitentiary at Philadelphia, consisted of one hundred and twenty-one blacks, and one hundred and seventy-three whites. According to the census of 1830, the population of Pennsylvania was one million three hundred and forty
seven thousand six hundred and seventy-two persons, of which number there were thirty-seven thousand nine hundred and ninety free coloured inhabitants. The number of prisoners in the three penitentiaries of the state, at the end of that year, was five hundred and ninety-eight, of which two hundred and fifty-three were blacks. If the convictions among the white population were in the same proportion with the black, instead of there being three hundred and forty-five convicts in the different penitentiaries of the state, an immense and overwhelming multitude, would present of between eight and nine thousand! Nor is there in the magnitude of the crimes committed, a perceptible difference. Among those offences which are supposed to exhibit the highest degree of moral turpitude, such as larceny, robbery, burglary, and arson, the relative proportion of whites and blacks seems to be nearly equal. It has sometimes been argued, in explanation of so lamentable a disparity, that the conviction of a coloured man is procured with more facility than that of a white. All experience of our criminal courts rejects the imputation as unfounded. It affects too deeply the integrity and justice of our judicial tribunals, to be countenanced or discussed without adequate and particular proof. No; the fact cannot be reasoned against, explained, or impaired, and however reluctant we may feel to admit the moral inferiority of the black man in Pennsylvania, the conclusion is altogether irresistible.*
Though the statistics of our prisons show the black citizen
* Heber tell us that the prisons of Moscow and other places in Russia, were chiefly filled with slaves, most of whom were in irons. The convictions of slaves in the slave-holding states of this union, show the most deplorable disproportion to those of the whites. Travellers find the prisons crowded with slaves.
For the purpose of contemplating the same men under more favour. able circumstances, we must consider them, not in the free state of Pennsylvania, for as I have demonstrated in the text, mere legal freedom confers no exemption from crime, but in Liberia. Governor Mechlin says: “As to the morals of the colonists, (of Liberia) I consider them much better than those of the people of the United States; that is, you may take an equal number of the inhabitants from any section of the Union, and you will find more drunk