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the great infusion of a servile and barbaric population. Virginia long tried to discourage it by putting a heavy import tax on slaves, which was constantly overruled by the English government under the influence of the trading companies. At a later day every one tried to put the responsibility of slavery on some one else,—the North on the South, the South on England. But in truth the responsibility was on all. The colonists did not hesitate to refuse to receive tea which England taxed; equally well they could have refused to buy slaves imported by trading companies if they had not wanted them; but they did want them. The commercial demand overrode humanity. The social conscience was not awake,-strange as its slumber now seems. Stranger still, as we shall see, after it had once been thoroughly roused, it was deliberately drugged to sleep. But this belongs to a later chapter.
New England had little use for slaves at home, but for slave ships she had abundant use. With a sterile soil, and with the sea at her doors swarming with edible fish and beckoning to her sails, her hardy industry found its best field on the ocean. The fisheries were the foundation of her commerce. The thrifty Yankee sold the best of his catch in Europe (here again we follow Weeden); the medium quality he ate himself; and the worst he sent to the West Indies to be sold as food for slaves. With the proceeds the skipper bought molasses and carried it home, where it was turned into rum; the rum went to Africa and was exchanged for slaves, and the slaves were carried to the West Indies, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Rum and slaves, two chief staples of New England trade and sources of its wealth; slave labor the foundation on which was planted the aristocracy of Virginia and the Carolinas, alas for our great-grandfathers! But what may our greatgrandchildren find to say of us?
The social conscience was not developed along this line; men were unconscious of the essential wrong of slavery, or, uneasily conscious of something wrong, saw not what could be done, and kept still. Here and there a voice was raised in protest. There was fine old Samuel Sewall, Chief Justice of Massachusetts; sincere, faithful man; dry and narrow, because in a dry and narrow place and time; but with the capacity for growth which distinguishes the live root from the dead. He presided over the court that adjudged witches to death; then, when the community had recovered from its frenzy, he took on himself deepest blame; he stood up in his pew, a public penitent, while the minister read aloud his humble confession, and on a stated day in each year he shut himself up in solitude to mourn and expiate the wrong he had unwittingly done, and, almost alone among his people, he spoke out clear and strong against human slavery.
A little later, in the generation before the Revolution, came the Quaker, John Woolman,-a gentle and lovely soul, known among his people as a kind of lay evangelist, traveling among their communities to utter sweet persuasive words of holiness and uplifting; known in our day by his Journal, a book of saintly meditations. Sensitive and shrinking, he yet had the moral insight to see and the courage to speak against the wrong of slavery. The Quakers, rich in the virtues of peace and kindliness, were by no means unpractical in the ways of worldly gain, or inaccessible to its temptations ; they had held slaves like their neighbors, though we should probably have preferred a Quaker master. But the seed Woolman sowed fell on good ground; slavery came into disfavor among the Quakers, and when sentiment against it began to grow they lent strength to the leadership of the public conscience.
THE ACTS OF THE FATHERS
The revolt of the colonists from British rule was not inspired originally by abstract enthusiasm for the rights of man. It was rather a demand for the chartered rights of British subjects, according to the liberal principles set forth by Locke and Chatham and Burke and Fox; a demand pushed on by the self-asserting strength of communities become too vigorous to endure control from a remote seat of empire, especially when that control was exercised in a harsh and arbitrary spirit. The revolutionary tide was swelled from various sources: by the mob eager to worry a red-coated sentry or to join in a raid under Indian disguise; by men who embodied the common sense and rough energy of the plain people, like Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine; by men of practical statesmanship, like Franklin and Washington, who saw that the time had come when the colonists could best manage their own affairs; and by generous enthusiasts for humanity, like Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
With the minds of thoughtful men thoroughly wakened on the subject of human rights, it was impossible not to reflect on the wrongs of the slaves, incomparably worse than those against which their masters had taken up arms. As the political institutions of the young Federation were remolded, so grave a matter as slavery could not be ignored. Virginia in 1772 voted an address to the King remonstrating against the continuance of the African slave trade.
The address was ignored, and Jefferson in the first draft of the Declaration alleged this as one of the wrongs suffered at the hands of the British government, but his colleagues suppressed the clause. In 1778 Virginia forbade the importation of slaves into her ports. The next year Jefferson proposed to the Legislature an elaborate plan for gradual emancipation, but it failed of consideration. Maryland followed Virginia in forbidding the importation of slaves from Africa. Virginia in 1782 passed a law by which manumission of slaves, which before had required special legislative permission, might be given at the will of the master. For the next ten years manumission went on at the rate of 8000 a year. Afterward the law was made more restrictive. Massachusetts adopted in 1780 a constitution and bill of rights, asserting, as the Declaration had done, that all men are born free and have an equal and inalienable right to defend their lives and liberties, to acquire property and to seek and obtain freedom and happiness. A test case was made up to decide the status of a slave, and the Supreme Court ruled that under this clause slavery no longer existed in Massachusetts. Its 6000 negroes were now entitled to the suffrage on the same terms as the whites. The same held good of the free blacks in four other States. In all the States but Massachusetts slavery retained a legal existence, the number ranging in 1790 from 158 in New Hampshire to nearly 4000 in Pennsylvania, over 21,000 in New York, 100,000 in each of the Carolinas, and about 300,000 in Virginia. Ships of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Middle States were still busy in bringing negroes from Africa to the South, though there were brave men like Dr. Hopkins at Newport who denounced the traffic in its strongholds.
Jefferson planned nobly for the exclusion of slavery from the whole as yet unorganized domain of the nation, a meas
ure which would have belted the slave States with free territory, and so worked toward universal freedom. The sentiment of the time gave success to half his plan. His proposal in the ordinance of 1784 missed success in the Continental Congress by the vote of a single State. The principle was embodied in the ordinance of 1787 (when Jefferson was abroad as Minister to France), but with its operations limited to the Northwestern territory, the country south of the Ohio being left under the influence of the slave States from which it had been settled.
The young nation crystalized into form in the constitutional convention of 1787, and the ratification of its act by the people. It was indeed, as John Fiske's admirable book names it, “the critical period of American history." To human eyes it was the parting of the ways between disintegration toward anarchy, and the birth of a nation with fairer opportunities and higher ideals than any that had gone before. The work of those forty men in half a year has hardly a parallel. Individually they were the pick and flower of their communities. The circumstances compelled them to keep in such touch with the people of those communities that their action would be ratified. They included men of the broadest theoretical statesmanship, like Madison and Hamilton; men of great practical sense and magnanimity, like Washington and Franklin; and they also included and needed to include the representatives of various local and national interests. They had been schooled by the training of many momentous years, and the emergency brought out the strongest traits of the men and of the people behind them.
A prime necessity was willingness to make mutual concessions, together with good judgment as to where those concessions must stop. Large States against small States, seaport against farm, North against South and East against