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the subject was elected, consisting of a member from each of the nine congressional districts of the State. Reluctance to support some general plan of emancipation had quite disappeared, and six ordinances for emancipation were submitted during the first day. Though differing in details, they agreed in general outline with the plan adopted and tried during the first half of the century in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. The process should be gradual, but when should it end? Judge Breckinridge, on the fifteenth, proposed a plan, beginning on the first day of January, 1864, and culminating in universal freedom on the fourth of July, twelve years later. Another plan would begin in 1869; would exclude slaves and free negroes from the State, and would forever deny those within it the right to exercise the elective franchise. Another plan would exclude slaves from the State, decree emancipation from the fourth of July, 1870, and adopt a system of apprenticeship; while still another plan would date the ordinance of freedom from July, 1876, until which time slavery should continue, but meanwhile no slave should be brought into the State, and the question of abolition should be submitted to popular vote.
The Committee on Emancipation reported a plan for slavery to cease in the State on the fourth of July, 1876. It enfranchised all slaves brought into the State, and all removed by their owners to any seceding State, who should be brought back by them, but the old constitutional provision should continue,—forbidding the general assembly to emancipate slaves without the consent of their owners. Of this committee, Governor Gamble was chairman. One recalcitrant member brought in a minority report, objecting to any ordinance that was not submitted to the people for ratification, and also objecting to the long period of
1 Appendix to the Journal, pp. 8 to 13.
THE PROCESS OF ABOLITION.
slavery proposed by the committee's plan, and to its humanity in longer suffering the sale of slaves.
We are interested in the ideas discussed at this time rather than in the opinions of any delegate, however eminent. The abolition of slavery in America was not the work of any one man, and the discussion in Missouri is interesting, chiefly because it occurred in a slave-holding State, the first seriously to take up the subject. Few of the members were life-long emancipationists, but many now confessed themselves abolitionists, than which no more hateful word had for years been spoken in the South. But the war had been a great educator. Slavery was now generally believed to be at the bottom of the rebellion. As one memberexpressed it, the leaders of the Southern Confederacy had a "widespread, long-formed, deliberate purpose to build upon slavery a mighty empire, which, beginning its march on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and spreading first westward and southward, should, in the course of years, as it gained establishment, influence and power, turn northward to invest slavery, forever with 'the mastery of this whole continent.' In Missouri, slavery had shown itself more rapacious and relentless than in the other border States. South Carolina, by her ordinance of secession, attempted to make the institution the corner stone of the Confederacy. The institution was doomed to extinguishment. The President's proclamation, the result of resistless necessity laid
laid upon the United
1 Charles F. Drake of St. Louis.
2 Proceedings, p. 25. For a corroboration of this idea of the territorial expansion of the South, see Smith's Debates, Alabama Convention, 1861, pp. 236, 237.
3 The reference is not alone to the debates in South Carolina Convention of 1861, but to part of Alexander H. Stephens' “Corner Stone Address" at Savannah, Georgia, March 21, 1861; see Johnston's American Qrations, III, 164.
States to crush its intestine foe, had fallen like a thunderbolt, and put an end to slavery within the States in rebellion. There it could never be resuscitated. It lived in the loyal States only till their people, by their own peaceful action, could do for it among themselves, what the President, by warlike means, had done for it, elsewhere. It was the institution itself, as a crime, that had •fostered passion and rebellion, and to leave it standing on any spot in the country was only to prepare the way for future revolution. At last, the people were beginning to understand this, and were willing to abandon slavery to its fate, and save their country.
The recent movement in West Virginia might be considered, in some sense, as a precedent. Since the war continued, and Missouri was a slave State she, for that reason, would be subjected to incursions from without and to convulsions within, crippling her energies and wasting her resources. The instances of emancipation earlier in our history were from times of peace. There was no similarity of condition between Missouri in 1863 and the older States from 1780 to 1817, which had adopted a system of gradual abolition. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York had the whole case within their own grasp, free from external pressure; but outside circumstances, over which Missouri had no efficient control, created the exigency which called for emancipation. The course of the older States could not, therefore, be a precedent for Missouri. They could set their own time, to put an end to the institution; Missouri, for its own peace and safety, must act at once, if it would not be placed “forever in the hold of Southern traitors." It was time to "free her from the curse of home-bred treason.” The institution constantly tended to a society of few whites and many slaves. Missouri had gained nothing by its existence within her borders, and
MISSOURI, IOWA, ILLINOIS.
could gain nothing by its continuance. Illinois, by free labor, had greater agricultural products. Ohio, a free State, increased more rapidly in population. In each of these free States railroads were more extensive than in Missouri, and were maintained at far less cost.
Though Missouri offered public lands at one-half the price charged in Illinois and Iowa, immigrants sought the free, and avoided the slave, State. The want of Missouri was population, for which all the products of slave labor could not make up. Put away slavery and the State would rank with the first in the Union. Already slavery had taken alarm, and from the central part of the State, slaves were being moved into Kentucky, ostensibly to be employed in raising cotton, but, really, to escape emancipation. Every day the State was losing its laborers, and no man could tell when the exodus would cease. the young, and the vigorous, middle-aged men that were departing, leaving the old men, the women and the children to be cared for by their masters. What was to stay this movement? With war imminent; with society so disrupted that pursuit of fugitive slaves was, beyond any precedent, of doubtful result; with every road beset with marauders and murderers--it was notorious, that slaves possessed facilities for escape never known before, and that they were availing themselves of them. Unless some barrier was interposed, the State would lose its agricultural laborers. It was not in a condition to employ force as a barrier, therefore, the inducement to the slave to secure freedom by flight should be removed, by making him free. Yet, it was not from Missouri they were flying, but from slavery; it was not Illinois, Iowa or Kansas they were seeking, but freedom. Emancipation was, therefore, an industrial question. It was to the interest of the State to keep its laborers at home. It would take years to obtain
a substitute for this servile population of a hundred thousand souls.1
Clearly, it was a simple matter of political economy to keep the negroes until their places could be filled by white laborers. If the slaves understood that they were to remain in servitude for an indefinite period, they would continue to flee. Two years of war, for the extension of slavery, had done more for its extermination than all the efforts of the abolitionists for a quarter of a century. Yet, they must not be emancipated without a system of apprenticeship, for they were like children and must be educated into fitness for freedom. Let them work in hope, and they would work well. A proper system of apprenticeship must be the work of the legislature, but emancipation should be immediate. The President's proclamation had forever destroyed the Southern market for Missouri slaves. The act of Congress, confiscating the property of rebels, practically ruled out most of the slaveowners of the South from being slave purchasers. Of the twenty-five thousand slaveholders in Missouri, it could be said, that they would be far more than compensated for the loss of their slaves by the increased value of their lands, produced by emancipation. It will be noticed that these arguments for emancipation were wholly on industrial grounds. No argument based on the immorality of slavery would prove so persuasive to a Southern convention.
Compensation to slave owners, it was said, the State
1 The aggregate slave population of Missouri at this time was estimated at 114,931; see classification of it by ages and sex in Proceedings of this Convention, p. 53; see also census of the State by Counties in the Appendix to the Journal of the Convention of 1862, pp. 30, 32.
2 July 17, 1862; Statutes at Large, XII, 589, 627; also p. 319. 8 Proceedings, pp. 26, 36.