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In the year
stroys the usual incentives to industry and virtuous conduct. Vice and crime are much more frequent among them, than among any other description of people. In the non-slave. holding states, this class of people are not dangerous. They for the most part do the menial services of society, for the same, or less expense, than it requires to purchase and support slaves. The records of courts of criminal jurisdiction, show convictions from among them of at least three to one compared with the whites, in proportion to the whole population. Where slavery is practiced, they are viewed as extremely dangerous. Excluded from associating with the whites, they mingle with those of their own color, and encourage desertion and revolt. Their habitations furnish places of resort for disaffected slaves, where insurrection and murder are plotted, and means provided.
Conspiracy of negroes at Charleston. 1822, a conspiracy was set on foot at Charleston, among the blacks, to destroy the city, and massacre the inhabitants. It was managed with much secrecy and adroitness, . and discovered but a short time before it was to have been carried into execution. It resulted in the conviction of eighty of the conspirators, thirty of whom suffered capital punishment. Though this conspiracy was among the slave population, the free colored people were supposed to be its principal instigators. Suspicion and alarm concerning them was much increased by this event.
Act of South Carolina. In the following December, the legislature of South Carolina, excited by the danger to which their principal city had been exposed, enacted a law, providing that if any vessel should enter their ports, either from another state or a foreign country, having on board any free persons of color, as part of her crew, such persons were to be seized, and confined until the departure of the vessel, when the captain was required to take them away, and
pay penses of their detention. On his neglect, he was liable to two months imprisonment, and a fine of a thousand dollars, and the persons so left were to be sold for slaves. In the following year, the Marmion, a British vessel, arrived in the port of Charleston, when four of hér crew, being persons of the description specified in the act, were taken and imprisoned, by virtue of its provisions. These proceedings were the subject of a spirited remonstrance from the British minister. The question, whether this act was compatible with the rights of nations, in amity with the United States, and with the constitution, was submitted to the attorney gene
ral. His opinion was, that the act was incompatible with both, and that the proceedings at Charleston were a violation of existing treaties between Great Britain and the United States.
Proceedings of the governor and senate of South Carolina. The papers on the subject were transmitted by the secretary of state, to the governor of South Carolina, with a request that the evil might be corrected by the legislature of that state. In communicating these papers to the senate, accompanied with a proposition from the legislature of Georgia, so to amend the constitution, as that it should not be construed “to authorize the ingress of any persons of color into any one of the United States, contrary to the laws of such state,” the governor, after a labored argument, to show the right of the state to pass laws of that character, remarked, “ that there should be a spirit of con. cert and action among the slave-holding states, and a determined resistance to any violation of their local institutions. The crisis seems to have arrived, when we are called upon to protect ourselves. The president of the United States, and his law adviser, so far from resisting the efforts of a fo. reign ministry, appear to be disposed, by an argument drawn from the overwhelming power of the general government, to make us the passive instruments of a policy, at war not only with our interests, but destructive also of our national existence. The evils of slavery have been visited upon us by the cupidity of those who are now the champions of universal emancipation. A firm determination, to resist at the threshold every invasion of our domestic tranquillity, and to preserve our sovereignty and independence as a state, is earnestly recommended ; and if an appeal to the first principles of the right of self-government be disregarded, and reason be successfully combatted by sophistry and error, there would be more glory in forming a rampart with our bodies, on the confines of our territory, than to be the vic, tims of a successful rebellion, or the slaves of a great conso. lidated
government." The senate responded to this tirade of their governor, by a majority of thirty-six to six; resolving,
“That they had carefully considered the documents transmitted to them, relating to the laws regulating the ingress of free people of color, and can as yet perceive no departure from the duties or rights of this state, or of the United States, in that law.
“ That they see, with profound regret, the alarming symptoms of an unconstitutional interference with her colored population.
“hat it is as much the duty of the state, to guard against insubordination and insurrection among our colored population, and to control and regulate any course which excites or produces it, as to guard against any other evil, political or physical, which might assail it. This duty is paramount to all laws, treaties, or constitutions. It arises from the supreme and paramount law of nature, the law of self-preservation, and will never by this state be renounced, compromised, controlled, or participated with any power whatever..
“ That they are aware of the dangerous and insidious conduct of a party in Great Britain and the United States, who are ever ready to indulge their benevolent propensities at the expense of their neighbors, and who seem to reflect with complacency on the scenes of carnage and cruelty, which might be the result of their inconsiderate and mischievous machinations. Therefore,
“Resolved, That the legislature of South Carolina protests against any claims of right, of the United States, to interfere, in any manner whatever, with the domestic regulations, and preservatory measures, in respect to that part of her property, which forms the colored population of the state, and which property they will not permit to be meddled or tampered with, or in any manner ordered, regulated, or controlled, by any other power, foreign or domestic, than this legislature."
The law in question being upon the face of it, a manifest violation of the national constitution, could justify no proceedings under it; but the consideration that any person who should be prosecuted, would have to seek redress before courts and juries in the state where it was deemed a constitutional and necessary law, prevented in a great measure the infringements of its provisions. It remains in the statute book of South Carolina unrepealed.
There were however other considerations connected with this subject, much more important than the admission or exclusion of a few free negroes into the ports of South Caro. lina. The language of the state authorities on this occa. sion, was direct challenge to the government of the United States, and a declaration, that in a certain event, its acts should be resisted by force.
The state governments, for all purposes not within the purview of the constitution, are soveriegn and independent communities, possessed of the power of the sword and the purse of their citizens, but for all purposes which that instrument embraces, are mere subordinate corporations, having no legitimate power to do any act contrary to the will of the general government. The power of determining, whether a given case is, or is not within the provsions of the constitution, must be lodged somewhere. If, as is claimed in this instance by the governor and senate of South Carolina, it is lodged in the state authorities, there is an end of the union. Few acts of public concernment can be passed, but what will be viewed by some one or more of the twenty-four independent communities, upon whom they are to operate, as unconstitutional. The right of resistance necessarily fol. lows the right of judging, when the decision is against the constitutionality of the act. Civil war, or the submission of one or the other party, must ensue. Hence, by common consent, the high prerogative of determining questions of this nature, in the last resort, has been conceded to the sy. preme court. The proceedings in South Carolina were not alarming on the ground of any apprehension that the general government would suffer the constitution, and the laws and treaties made in virtue of it, to be prostrated at the feet of the state authorities ; but the danger to be feared, was, that such combinations would lead to a concentration of greater powers in the former, than would otherwise be necessary, and thus tend directly to that consolidation which the governor seems so much to deprecate. While the general government maintains with becoming energy its authority, in all cases provided by the constitution, and frowns upon any attempt, by subordinate corporations, to resist its legitimate exercise, it has ever carefully abstained from interfering with the slave population existing in the states of the original confederacy. Excepting the single provision of prohibiting the importation of slaves after a given period which has long since elapsed, congress have no powers on the subject of slavery, regarding the original states, who were parties to the compact; and they have as yet given no occasion to induce a belief that they will assume any. The progress of public opinion, however, which it is impossible to resist, is rapidly advancing to a point on this subject, which will very much do away the evils, and perhaps finally abolish the system. A sudden or ill-timed emancipa• tion would doubtless be attended with worse consequences
than its continuance in a mitigated form. More than a hundred anti-slavery societies are already established in the United States.*
The friends, a respectable and increasing denomination of Christians, bear uniform testimony against it; and those of North Carolina have agreed to emancipate all their slaves, provided they can be removed out of the country. The friends of abolition entertain a strong expectation, that such an experiment in the south, will show that the soil in that climate may be profitably cultivated without slave labor, and ultimately lead to the accomplishment of their wishes.
American colonization society. In the mean time, the removal of the free colored people from the neighborhood of the slave population, is an object of high importance. In this, the north and the south are united. With a view of removing from the United States a portion of this populalation, a society was formed at Washington in 1817, consisting of gentlemen of the first respectability and talents from different parts of the United States, denominated the American colonization society, whose sole object was to devise and execute a plan for the colonization of the free people of color in the United States, in Africa, or such other place as congress should deem expedient. The project of this colony was upon entirely different principles from the European system. No pecuniary advantages were calculated to result to the society ; but on the contrary, very considerable expenditures were to be incurred, without the prospect of re:nuneration. The territory to be occupied by the colonists, was not designed to belong to the company, or to the United States, but to be the property in fee of the emigrants, and no jurisdiction to be exercised over them beyond the period when they should be capable of self-government.
Several important ends were in view by this measure. The successful establishment of such a colony, would remove without the limits of the United States, to a certain extent at least, a population of a vicious and dangerous character. It would better the condition of the emigrants by elevating them to the rank of freemen: it would facilitate the emancipation of slaves, as it would enable those who were disposed to do it, to annex the condition of their removal to this colony, and in this manner avoid the danger arising from the increase of free negroes; it would contribute to the sup
* Address of the Maryland anti-slavery association.