« AnteriorContinuar »
Memorial of Quakers.
[H. of R.
of the annual meeting of that body, lately held in minds, so as to engage you to use every exertion in Philadelphia
your power, to have these things redressed. To the Senate and House of Representatives of the hereafter, and that, when you come to close this life,
With sincere desires for your happiness here and United States, in Congress assembled : The memorial and address of the people called Qua- formerly : “ Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee,
you may individually be able to appeal as a Ruler did kers, from their yearly meeting held in Philadelphia, how I have walked before thee, in truth and with a perby adjournments from the 25th of the 9th month, to the fect heart, and have done that which is good in thy 29th of the same, inclusive, 1797, respectfully shew
We remain your friends and fellow-citizens. That, being convened, at this our annual solemnity,
Signed in and on behalf of the said meeting, by for the promotion of the cause of truth and righteous
JONATHAN EVANS, ness, we have been favored to experience religious
Clerk to the meeting this year. weight to attend our minds, and an anxious desire to follow after those things which make for peace; among
The memorial having been read by the Clerk, other investigations the oppressed state of our brethren Mr. Gallatin moved that it be read a second of the African race has been brought into view, and time. particularly the circumstances of one hundred and thir.
Mr. Harper hoped not. This was not the first, ty-four in North Carolina, and many others.whose cases second, or third time, that the House had been have not so fully come to our knowledge, who were set troubled with similar applications, which had a duced into cruel bondage, under the authority of exist- tendency to stir up a class of persons to inflict ing or retrospective laws; husbands and wives, and calamities which would be of greater consequence children, separated, one from another; which, we ap
than any evils which were at present suffered ; prehend to be an abominable tragedy, and with other and this, and every other Legislature, ought to set acts, of a similar nature, practised in other States, has their faces against remonstrances complaining of a tendency to bring down the judgments of a righteous what it was utterly impossible to alter. God upon our land.
Mr. Thatcher hoped the petition would have This city and neighborhood, and some other parts, a second reading, and be committed. It appeared have been visited with an awful calamity, which ought to him that this would be the regular way of getto excite an inquiry in the cause and endeavors to do ting rid of the difficulty which was apprehended. away those things which occasion the heavy clouds that The gentleman who had just sat down said, that this hang over us. It is easy with the Almighty to bring was not the first, second, or third time, that the down the loftiness of men by diversified judgments, House had been troubled with similar petitions. and to make them fear the rod and Him that hath ap- This, he said, was natural. If any number of pointed it.
persons considered themselves aggrieved, it was We wish to revive in your view the solemn engage- not likely they should leave off petitioning, until ment of Congress, made in the year one thousand seven the House should act upon their petition. He hundred and seventy-four, as follows:
thought this was what they ought to do. If the “And, therefore, we do for ourselves, and the inhabit- Quakers thought themselves aggrieved, it was ants of the several colonies, whom we represent, firmly their duty to present their petition, not only three, agree and associate, under the sacred ties of virtue, five, or seven times, but seventy times. until it was honor, and love of our country, as follows:
attended to. Gentlemen, therefore, who wished “ Article 2. We will neither import nor purchase any not to be troubled again, ought to be in favor of a slaves imported after the first day of December next, second reading and reference. At present, they after which time we will wholly discontinue the slave did not know what the particular grievance comtrade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor plained of was, nor whether it could or could not will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or be remedied. He believed that one of the subjects manufactures to those who are concerned in it.
of complaint had a reference to a matter com“ Article 3. And will discountenance and discourage plained of in a memorial presented at the last sesevery species of extravagance and dissipation, especial. sion, respecting some dark-complexioned citizens ly horse-racing, and all kinds of gaming, cock fighting, of North Carolina, who were injured by the operaexhibitions of shows, plays, and other expensive diver- tion of an act of the United States called the Fusions and entertainments.”
gitive Act; but as it was the wish of the House This was a solemn league and covenant, made with not to enter upon any business of a private nature the Almighty in an hour of distress, and He is now call- at that time, the petition was ordered to lie on the ing upon you to perform and fulfil it; but how has table. It appeared, therefore, highly proper that this solemn covenant been contravened by the wrongs this petition should be referred, as was customary, and cruelties practised upon the
race, the increase of dissipation and luxury, and the countenance
to a committee, that this grievance might be and encouragement given to play-houses, and other
remedied. vain amusements! And how grossly is the Almighty
Mr. Lyon said it appeared to him that the genaffronted on the day of the celebration of Independence tleman from South Carolina (Mr. Harper) had What rioting and drunkenness, chambering and wan
not attended to the subject matter of the petition, tonness! to the great grief of sober inhabitants, and or he would not have objected to its being read a the disgrace of our national character.
second time. There was a grievance complained National evils produce national judgments; we there of, which certainly ought to be remedied, viz: that fore fervently pray the Governor of the Universe may a certain number of black persons who had been enlighten your understandings and influence your set at liberty by their masters, were now held in
H. of R.]
Memorial of Quakers.
slavery, contrary to right. He thought this ought Mr. Gallatin said it was the practice of the to be inquired into.
House, whenever a memorial was presented, to Mr. RUTLEDGE should not be opposed to the have it read a first and a second time, and then to second reading and reference of this memorial, if commit it, unless it were expressed in such indehe thought the strong censure they deserved would cent terms as to induce the House to reject it, or be the report of a committee. This censure, he upon a subject upon which petitions had been thought, this body of men ought to have; a set of lately rejected by a large majority of the House. men who attempt to seduce the servants of gentle- In no other case were petitions rejected without men travelling to the seat of Government, who examination and without discussion. He said were incessantly importuning Congress to inter- without exainination and without discussion, befere in a business with which
the Constitution had cause it was impossible, upon a single reading of said they had no concern. If he was sure this a petition, to be able to form a sound judgment conduct would be reprobated, he would cheerfully upon it. Indeed, seeing the way in which the vote for a reference of the present petition ; but not gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. RUTLEDGE) believing this would be the case, he should be for had treated the subject, no cool examination could its laying on the table, or under the table, that be expected at present; in the moment of passion they might not only have done with the business it would be best not to decide, but to send the pefor to-day, but finally. At a time when some na- tition to a committee. What was the objection tions were witnesses of the most barbarous and to this mode of proceeding? It was that the subhorrid scenes, these petitioners are endeavoring to ject would shake a certain kind of property. How incite a class of persons to the commission of sim- so? A petition that reminds us of the fate of cerilar enormities. He thought the matter of the tain blacks in this country, which did not refer greatest importance, and that the reference ought to slaves, but to free men. This petition was to by no means to be made. A gentleman before shake property! In the same manner it might be him (Mr. Lyon) had said that they had certainly said that the law of Pennsylvania for the gradsomething to do with the detention of freemen in ual abolition of slavery had also a tendency to deslavery. If the fact were as stated, (which he stroy that property; or that the legislative decision doubted,) redress ought to be sought by means of of the State of Massachusetts that there shall be a court of justice, and not by petitioning that no slaves under their Government, would have House.
that effect. But it was said the characters of the Mr. Swanwick was sorry to see so much heat petitioners was such as they ought to brand with produced by the introduction of this petition. He the mark of disapprobation. himself could see no reason why the petition should In support of this charge, it was alleged that not be dealt with in the ordinary way. If the pe- they were not satisfied with petitioning, but they titioners asked for any thing which it was not in attempted to debauch and seduce servants—to rob the power of the House to grant, it would be of gentlemen of their property. He did not know course refused; but this was no reason why their to what the gentleman who made this assertion petition should not be treated with ordinary re-alluded; but he believed, if the matter was fairly spect. In this memorial, he said, sundry things stated, whatever may have been done in the State were complained of; not only slavery, but several of Pennsylvania, has been no more than an enother grievances. For instance, play-houses were deavor to carry into full effect the laws of the complained of, whether justly or not, he was not State, which say, that “all men are free when about to decide. With respect to the grievance they set their foot within the State," excepting mentioned in North Carolina, something perhaps only the servants of Members of Congress. As might be done to remedy it, without affecting the to ihe moral character of this body of people, property which gentlemen seemed so much alarmed though a number of their principles were differabout. He could not suppose there was a disposi- ent from those which he professed, he believed it tion in the House to violate the property of any could not be said, with truth, that they were man; there was certainly as strong a disposition friends to any kind of disorder; and he was surin the Middle States as in the Southern, to hold prised to hear gentleman suppose that they could inviolable the right of property ; nor could he see or would do any thing which would throw into any reasonable ground for throwing this petition i disorder any part of the Union. On the contrary, under the table. If these people were wrong in he believed them to be good friends of order. Mr. their understanding of this subject, it would be G. said he wished to have avoided a discussion of best to appoint a committee to set them right. He the merits of the memorial; but when they were was sorry to hear gentlemen charge so respectable told it was improper to do any thing on the suba body of men in that House with attempting to ject, it became necessary. He knew it was in seduce and debauch their servants; for, if this were their power to do something. They might lay a the case, redress could doubtless be had in a court duty of ten dollars a head on the importation of of justice. The uncommon warmth which was slaves; he knew a memorial had been presented shown on the occasion would lead persons to be at a former session respecting the kidnapping of lieve that gentlemen were afraid of having the negroes, which had been favorably reported upon. matter looked into, as this was generally the tem- Finally, the present memorial did not apply only per resorted to when argument was wanting. He to the blacks, but to other objects. With respect ħoped the memorial would be dealt with in the to plays, they had a motion last session before
them for laying a tax upon them, which had a re
Memorial of Quakers.
[H. of R.
ference to the subject. By committing this me- power to do; as well might they ask the Presimorial, they should give no decision. If the dent of the United States to come and take the committee reported they could do nothing in the Speaker's chair. There was a law in North Carbusiness, and the House agreed to the report, the olina, he said, which forbade any person from matter would be closed in a much more respect- holding either a black or white person as a slave ful way than by throwing the petition under the after he had been set at liberty. The one huntable.
dred and thirty-four negroes alluded to in the peMr. Sewall said, the gentleman last up had tion, he knew nothing of. In the war, he said, stated two cases in which petitions had been re- the Quakers in their State were generally Tories. ceived without a commitment. He might have They began to set free their negroes, when the added a third, more applicable to the present me- State passed a law that they should not set them morial. This was when a petition was upon free. If these people were dissatisfied with the matter over which this House had no cognizance, law, they had nothing to do but transport their especially if it were of such a nature as to excite negroes into Pennsylvania, where, the gentleman disagreeable sensations in one part of the House, from that State had told them, they would be imwho were concerned in property which was al mediately free. This subject had already been ready held under circumstances sufficiently dis- before the House, but they declined doing any agreeable. In such cases, they ought at once 10 thing in it. It was extraordinary that these peoreject the memorial, as it would be mispending ple should come, session after session, with their time to commit it. If, for instance, a petition petitions on this subject. They had put playshould be presented, complaining that a person had houses into their memorial; but they had nothing refused to discharge an obligation to another, it to do with them. In this State, he believed, the would be at once acknowledged that the House Legislature had passed a law authorizing them. could not enforce the obligation; but application It was altogether a matter of State policy. The must be made to a court of justice. So in this whole petition was, indeed, unnecessary:
The case; the petitioners complain of a law of North only object seemed to be to sow dissension. A Carolina. This House, he said, could not change petition
could not come there touching any subthat law. If any thing was done there contrary ject on which they had power to act, which he to right, the courts of that State, as well as those should not be in favor of committing; but this of the United States, were open to afford redress. thing being wrong in itself, it was needless to It was their business, and not the business of that commit it, as no single purpose could be answered House. They did not come there to act upon by it. subjects agreeable to their feelings, but upon such Mr. Alles was in favor of a second reading as the Constitution had placed in their hands. and committal. He did not know that no good
The gentleman from Pennsylvania had said could arise from such a proceeding. He wished they might impose a tax of ten dollars upon the time to consider the matter. He had another reaimportation of every slave. Would this, he asked, son against getting rid of this business. When relieve the petitioners ? No. If they could pre- the debate upon this question came to be faithfulvent the kidnapping of negroes, it was well; but ly reported, it might be said that the society of nothing was aimed at of this sort in this peti- Quakers had been found guilty of such foul contion. He recollected a former instance of this duct, that their petition to the House had been kind, but the issue of the business showed that thrown under the table. Another reason. Last nothing could be done without injuring the public Summer, along with other strangers, he went to more than individuals would be benefited. The see the new jail of the city, where he was shown petition alluded to stage plays. With what view? a man who had been a manumitted slave; but To revenue? No; but to a correction of them after being free twenty years, he was apprehended with respect to morals. It was not within their under the fugitive law, and was there imprisoned. province to do this, but under the power of the If this were so, it was necessary that this law State Governments. If they were taken up for should be revised. He hoped, therefore, the petithe sake of revenue, they did not come within tion might be committed, and that this evil might the purview of this petition, but of the Committee be remedied. At all events, he trusted the petiof Ways and Means. Upon the whole, as he con- tion would not be rejected, as it would be highly sidered this as a dangerous business, and that they disrespectful to a society of men revered by every could do nothing to gratify the feelings of the pe- man who set a value upon virtue and integrity; titioners, he would not wish to treat the applica- Mr. LiviNGSTON said, if he could believe that tion with contempt, but let it lie on the table.
the persons who presented this petition were of Mr. Macon said, there was not a gentleman in the description which they had been represented; North Carolina who did not wish there were no that they endeavored to raise insurrections in one blacks in the country. It was a misfortune-he part of the country, and practised robbery in anconsidered it as a curse; but there was no way other, he should not be inclined to pay much reof getting rid of them. Instead of peace-makers, spect to them. But he did not believe these he looked upon the Quakers as war-makers, as charges; he believed them indiscriminately made they were continually endeavoring in the South- and unfounded. It was possible that a member of ern States to stir up insurrections amongst the this community, as well as of any other, might be negroes. It was unconstitutional, he said, in these of this description ; but, as against the body, he men to desire the House to do what they had no knew the charges were unworthily made. He was
H. OF R.)
[NOVEMBER, 1797. acquainted with many of these persons in those growth of them. Tó refer a petition of this sort, States where they were most numerous, and he iherefore, to a committee would answer no purwas certain they did not deserve the character pose. He did not think they were more obliged given them. Therefore, as the matter respected to take up the business than if they had read the the petitioners, the petition ought not to be thrown address in a newspaper. under the table. Let us now, said he, examine Mr. Bayard said it might be inferred, from the the request, and see whether it be so improper and anxiety and warmth of gentlemen, that the quesimpracticable as to make us say, on its first read- tion before them was, whether slavery should or ing, we have heard enough. What do they ask? should not be abolished. The present was, howThey say a certain number of citizens are deprived ever, very remote from such a question, as it was of what belongs to them; and can we say we will merely whether a memorial should be read a senot grant relief ? No, said he, we cannot, before cond time. The contents of this memorial, he the business is inquired into, as it would be acting said, were right or wrong, reasonable or unreasonunlike the Legislature of a great nation. If they able; if right, it was proper it should go to a said this application was so improper as not to be committee; and if wrong, if so clearly absurd as committed, what did they say to their predecessors it had been represented, where would be the evil who sat in that House a few months ago, who not of a reference for a report thereon ? He did not only received an application of a similar kind, but like things to be decided in the moment of passion, a committee reported in its favor. They said uni- but from the fullest consideration. In some counversal emancipation is not in our power, but the tries they knew persons accused of crimes were evil is one for which a partial remedy may be pro- condemned without a hearing, but there could be vided. The want of time only prevented its be- but one sentiment as to the injustice of such a proing acted upon. This was a subject upon which ceeding. There could be no objection, therefore, they might at least debate ; he could not say whe- upon general principles, to the reference of this ther they could afford a remedy or not. His im- petition. But it was said it was not to be sent, pressions were they could not, but he would not because of the general habits of this society. He say they never could. He did not think they believed there was no body of men more respectashould do the duty which he was sent there to do, ble; they were obedient, and contributed cheerby saying so, which was to follow the dictates of fully to the support of Government; and, either a sober judgment, after facts were fairly and fully politically or civilly speaking, as few crimes could stated. He thought it best to follow the usual be imputed to that body as to any other. course, by appointing a committee, who would ex- This memorial, he said, had been treated as coamine the matter and report what was best to be ming from an Abolition Society-it was a memodone, which the House could agree to or not, as rial of the General Meeting of the people called they saw proper. He thought it would be for the Quakers; and if only out of respect to that body, advantage of those States most interested in the it ought to be referred. But it was said it did not question, that it should be fully discussed and im- contain matter upon which the House could act. passionately decided upon; for, so long as the Gentlemen seemed not to have attended to the petitions of these persons were neglected or treated subject-matter of the petition. He did not believe with contempt, so long would they conceive they that the House had the power to manumit slaves, were unjustly treated, and continue their applica- but he believed there was not a word in the petitions for redress.
tion which had a reference to slavery. The petiMr. L. said there were a number of general re- tioners state, indeed, that a number of negroes, flections contained in the memorial, upon the not slaves, for negroes may be free, had been growth of vice and immorality, to the suppression taken again into slavery, after they had been freed of which he did not see that the power of Con- by their masters. He wished to know whether gress extended. They particularly pointed at the the House had not jurisdiction over this matter ? establishment of play-houses; but it might be re- He was warranted by the Constitution in saying marked that these gentlemen, so averse to the they had, because that instrument says that no establishment of play-houses, have not written State shall make ex post facto laws. It belonged their memorial without borrowing language from to that House, therefore, io see that the Constituthem, as they term the evil which they speak of tion was respected, as it could not be expected " a terrible tragedy."
from the justice of the individual States, that they Mr. Isaac PARKER was of opinion with the would repeal such laws. It rested, therefore, with gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Gallatin,) the Government of the United States to do it. with respect to the disposal of petitions. But it Mr. B. read the clause of the Constitution touchappeared to him that the subject-matter of all pe- ing this matter, and concluded by reminding the titions should be within the view and authority House that this was not an ultimate decision, but of the House; if not, to refer them would certainly merely a reference. be a waste of time. He had attended to the peti- Mr. Josiah PARKER said he was always intion, and he did not think there was a single object clined to lend a favorable ear to petitioners of every upon which it was in their power to act. Nothing kind but when memorial was presented to the was prayed for. The petitioners speak of the House contrary to the nature of ihe Government, slave trade, and, in general terms, of the immora- he should consent to its lying on the table or unlity of the times, as injurious to the state of society ; der it. No one, he said, could say they had a right and wish some means may be taken to prevent the I to legislate respecting the proceedings of any indi
[H. OF R. vidual State; they, therefore, had no power to de- be taken from him. He did not think it necessacide on the conduct of the citizens of North Caro- ry, and he doubted not, if a fair investigation took lina in the matter complained of. Petitions bad place, that this kind of property would be brought frequently come from Quakers and others on this into the situation in whic every man of sense subject; whereas this Government had nothing to would place it. He was firmly of an opinion, that do with negro slavery, except that they might lay to appear to be afraid of an inquiry would do more a tax upon the importation of slaves. He recol- harm to this property than a fair investigation. lected, when the subject was brought before the He trusted, therefore, the petition would be comHouse in the first Congress held at New York, mitted. wishing to put a stop to the slave trade as much Mr. Blount hoped this memorial would not as possible, being a friend of liberty, he took every be committed. As this was not ihe first time the step in his power, and brought forward a propo-society of Quakers had come forward with petisition for laying a tax of ten dollars upon every tions to the House, seemingly with no other view slave imported. It was not agreed to; but there than to fix an odium on the State of North Carowas only one State (Georgia) in which the im- lina, he thought it his duty positively to contraportation of slaves was admitted. Since the es- dict a fact stated in this memorial. It was stated tablishment of this Government, Mr. P. said, the that 134 persons, set free from slavery in North situation of slaves was much ameliorated, and any Carolina, had been since enslaved by cruel retrointerference now might have the effect to make spective, or ex post facto laws; they alleged that their masters more severe. He knew of no part certain members of their society had done what of the Constitution which gave them power over no person was permitted to do. Mr. B. read part horse-racing and cock-fighting, nor could they in- of a law of North Carolina, stating that no negro terfere with respect to play-houses; and where or mulatto slave shall be set free, except for merithey had no right to legislate, they had no right to torious services, acknowledged by a license of the speak at all. As the session had begun harmoni-court; and when any person shall be set free conously, he hoped that harmony would not be broken trary to this law, he may be seized and sold as a in upon by such applications as the present. Mr. slave,” &c. He also read a clause from another P. produced a precedent from the Journals of law, passed afterwards, stating that several per1792, where a memorial of Warner Mifflin, a sons having set at liberty their slaves contrary to Quaker, after being read, was ordered io lie on law, and persons having taken up and sold them, the table, and two days afterwards returned to the are doubtful of the validity of the sale, and that memorialist.
this law is passed to do away all doubts of such Mr. Nicholas felt as much as other gentlemen validity. Mr. B. said these extracts proved the from the Southern States on the subject of the assertion untrue. present petition, but his feelings did not produce Mr. Gordon lamented that this discussion had the same effects. He was not afraid of an inter- taken place, as it was certain that wherever inteference from the United States with their property, rest is concerned, some degree of warmth will be por of any investigations or discussions respecting produced; and when a petition was brought forit. He believed it would be to the honor of peo- ward which might affect the property of many ple holding property in slaves, that the business gentlemen in this House, and their constituents, should be looked into. He thought such an in- it could not be expected they would hear it with quiry would rather secure than injure their pro- the same calmness with persons wholly unconperty. He did not think it was the interest of cerned about it. All that had been advanced in slaveholders to cover improper practices. He was favor of the second reading of the petition was, satisfied, that in the part of the country where he the respectability of the persons presenting it, the lived, there was no disposition to protect injuries, opinion that would be entertained of the petitionno disposition to reject an inquiry, or to refuse to ers, if their petition was not referred, and the meunderstand a complaint. They had been told that rits of the petition itself. the state of the negroes, whose cases were men- With respect to the persons of the petitioners, tioned in the memorial, might be produced by the he felt inclined to do them every justice; but fugitive law; they had before heard that this law he did not think this any reason for acting upon had operated mischievously. It ought, therefore, their memorial, unless some good consequence to be inquired into. On inquiry, Mr. N. said, it could arise from it, any more than if they were the would not be found the fault of the Southern vilest persons on earth. As to the opinion that States that slavery was tolerated, but their mis- might be entertained out of doors, as the petition fortune; but to liberate their slaves at once, would was not examined, he was not afraid that the citibe to act like madmen; it would be to injure all zens of the United States would believe that the parts of the United States as well as those who House could be so far lost to its duty as not to look possess slaves. It was their duty, however, to into a question of this kind, but that it would be remedy evils; they were unfortunately placed in conceived, if rejected, that they had nothing to do a situation which obliged them to hold slaves, but with it. The other reason, the only material one, they did not wish to extend the mischief. He was to the merits of the petition. The gentleman should, indeed, be sorry if his possessing property from Delaware, (Mr. Bayard,) who had examinof this kind, obliged him to cover the violation of ed the business with much coolness and ability, another man's right; if this were the case, he had stated that a certain ex post facto law of North should think it necessary that his property should I Carolina had occasioned grievances. Admitting