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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » A Defence of Virginia » CHAPTER II. THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE.
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This iniquitous traffick, beginning with the importation of negroes into Hispaniola in 1503, was first pursued by the English in 1562, under Sir John Hawkins, who sold a cargo at the same island that year. The news of his success reaching Queen Elizabeth, she became a partner with him in other voyages. Under the Stuart kings, repeated charters were given to noblemen and merchants, to form companies for this trade, in one of which, the Duke of York, afterwards James II., was a partner. The colony of Virginia was planted in 1607. The first cargo of negroes, only twenty in number, arrived there in a Dutch vessel in 1620, and was bought by the colonists. All the commercial nations of Europe were implicated in the trade; and all the colonies in America were supplied, to a greater or less extent, with slave labour from Africa, whether Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, or Dutch. But England became, on the whole, the leader in this trade, and was unrivalled by any, save her daughter, New England.

The happy revolution of 1688, which placed William and Mary on the throne, arrested for a time the activity of the royal company for slave trading, by throwing the business open to the whole nation. For one of the reforms, 28 stipulated with the new government, was the abolition of all monopolies. But the company did not give up its operations; and it even succeeded in exacting from Parliament an indemnity of £10,000 per annum for the loss of its exclusive privilege. But the most splendid triumph of British enterprise was that achieved by the treaty of Utrecht, 1712, between Queen Anne and Spain. By a compact called the Asiento treaty, the Spanish monarch resigned to the English South Sea Company, the exclusive slave trade even between Africa and the Spanish colonies. Four thousand eight hundred slaves were to be furnished to the Spanish colonies annually, for thirty years, paying to the King of Spain an impost of thirty-three and a third dollars per head; but the company had the privilege of introducing as many more as they could sell, paying half duty upon them. The citizens of every other nation, even Spaniards themselves, were prohibited from bringing a single slave. The British Queen and the King of Spain became stockholders in the venture, to the extent of one-fourth each; the remainder of the stock was left to British citizens. And Anne, in her speech from the throne, detailing to her Parliament the provisions of the treaty of Utrecht, congratulated them on this monopoly of slave trading, as the most splendid triumph of her arms and diplomacy.[1] Meantime, the African Company, with private adventurers at a later day, plied the trade with equal activity, for furnishing the British colonies. Finally, in 1749, every restriction 29 upon private enterprise was removed; and the slave trade was thrown open to all Englishmen; for, says the statute: "the slave trade is very advantageous to Great Britain." But every resource of legislation, and even of war, was employed during the eighteenth century to secure the monopoly of the trade to British subjects, and to enlarge the market for their commodity in all the colonies. To this end, the royal government of the plantations, which afterwards became the United States, was perseveringly directed. The complaint of Hugh Drysdale, Deputy Governor of Virginia, in 1726, that when a tax was imposed to check the influx of Africans, "the interfering interest of the African company has obtained the repeal of the law,"[2] was common to him and all the patriotic rulers of the Southern colonies.

Reynal estimates the whole number of negroes stolen from Africa before 1776 at nine millions; Bancroft at something more than six millions. Of these, British subjects carried at least half: and to the above numbers must be added a quarter of a million thrown by Englishmen into the Atlantic on the voyage.[3] As the traffick continued in full activity until 1808, it is a safe estimate that the number of victims to British cupidity taken from Africa was increased to five millions. The profit made by Englishmen upon the three millions carried to America before 1776, could not have been less than four hundred millions of dollars. The negroes cost the traders nothing but worthless trinkets, damaged fire-arms, and New England rum: they were 30 usually paid for in hard money at the place of sale. This lucrative trade laid the foundation, to a great degree, for the commercial wealth of London, Bristol, and Liverpool. The capital which now makes England the workshop and emporium of the world, was in large part born of the African slave trade. Especially was this the chief source of the riches which founded the British empire in Hindostan. The South Sea and the African Companies were the prototypes and pioneers of that wonderful institution, the East India Company; and the money by which the latter was set on foot was derived mainly from the profitable slave-catching of the former. When the direct returns of the African trade in the eighteenth century are remembered; when it is noted how much colonial trade has contributed to British greatness, and when it is considered that England's colonial system was wholly built upon African slavery, the intelligent reader will be convinced that the slave trade was the corner-stone of the present splendid prosperity of that Empire.

But after the nineteenth century had arrived, the prospective impolicy of the trade,[4] the prevalence of democratic and Jacobin opinions imported from France, the shame inspired by the example of Virginia, with (we would fain hope) some influences of the Christian religion upon the better spirits, began to create a powerful party against the trade. First, Clarkson published in Latin, and then in English, his work against the slave trade, exposing its unutterable barbarities, as practised by Englishmen, and arguing its intrinsic 31 unrighteousness. The powerful parliamentary influence of Wilberforce was added, and afterwards that of the younger Pitt. The commercial classes made a tremendous resistance for many years, sustained by many noblemen and by the royal family; but at length the Parliament, in 1808, declared the trade illicit, and took measures to suppress it. Since that time, the British Government, with a tardy zeal, but without disgorging any of the gross spoils with which it is so plethoric, wrung from the tears and blood of Africa, has arrogated to itself the special task of the catchpole of the seas, to "police" the world against the continuance of its once profitable sin. Its present attitude is in curious contrast with its recent position, as greedy monopolist, and queen of slave traders; and especially when the observer adverts to her activity in the Coolie traffick, that new and more frightful form, under which the Phariseeism of this age has restored the trade, he will have little difficulty in deciding, whether the meddlesome activity of England is prompted by a virtuous repentance, or by a desire to replace the advantages of the African commerce with other fruits of commercial supremacy.

The share of the Colony of Virginia in the African slave trade was that of an unwilling recipient; never that of an active party. She had no ships engaged in any foreign trade; for the strict obedience of her governors and citizens to the colonial laws of the mother country prevented her trading to foreign ports, and all the carrying trade to British ports and colonies was in the hands of New Englanders and Englishmen. In the replies submitted by Sir William Berkeley, Governor, 32 1671, to certain written inquiries of the "Lords of Plantations," we find the following statement: "And this is the cause why no great or small vessels are built here; for we are most obedient to all laws, while the men of New England break through, and trade to any place that their interest leads them."[5] The same facts, and the sense of grievance which the colonists derived from them, are curiously attested by the party of Nathaniel Bacon also, who opposed Sir William Berkeley. When they supposed that they had wrested the government from his hands, Sarah Drummond, an enthusiastic patriot, exclaimed: "Now we can build ships, and like New England, trade to any part of the world."[6] But her hopes were not realized: Virginia continued without ships. No vessel ever went from her ports, or was ever manned by her citizens, to engage in the slave trade; and while her government can claim the high and peculiar honour of having ever opposed the cruel traffick, her citizens have been precluded by Providence from the least participation in it.

The planting of the commercial States of North America began with the colony of Puritan Independents at Plymouth, in 1620, which was subsequently enlarged into the State of Massachusetts. The other trading colonies, Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as New Hampshire (which never had an extensive shipping interest), were offshoots of Massachusetts. They partook of the same characteristics and pursuits; and hence, the example of the parent colony is taken 33 here as a fair representation of them. The first ship from America, which embarked in the African slave trade, was the Desire, Captain Pierce, of Salem; and this was among the first vessels ever built in the colony. The promptitude with which the "Puritan Fathers" embarked in this business may be comprehended, when it is stated that the Desire sailed upon her voyage in June, 1637.[7] The first feeble and dubious foothold was gained by the white man at Plymouth less than seventeen years before; and as is well known, many years were expended by the struggle of the handful of settlers for existence. So that it may be correctly said, that the commerce of New England was born of the slave trade; as its subsequent prosperity was largely founded upon it. The Desire, proceeding to the Bahamas, with a cargo of "dry fish and strong liquors, the only commodities for those parts," obtained the negroes from two British men-of-war, which had captured them from a Spanish slaver.

To understand the growth of the New England slave trade, two connected topics must be a little illustrated. The first of these is the enslaving of Indians. The pious "Puritan Fathers" found it convenient to assume that they were God's chosen Israel, and the pagans about them were Amalek and Amorites. They hence deduced their righteous title to exterminate or enslave the Indians, whenever they became troublesome. As soon as the Indian wars began, we find the captives enslaved. The ministers and magistrates solemnly authorized the enslaving of the wives and posterity of 34 their enemies for the crimes of the fathers and husbands in daring to defend their own soil. In 1646, the Commissioners of the United Colonies made an order,[8] that upon complaint of a trespass by Indians, any of that plantation of Indians that should entertain, protect, or rescue the offender, might be seized by reprisal, and held as hostages for the delivery of the culprits; in failure of which, the innocent persons seized should be slaves, and be exported for sale as such. In 1677, the General Court of Massachusetts[9] ordered the enslaving of the Indian youths or girls "of such as had been in hostility with the colony, or had lived among its enemies in the time of the War." In the winter of 1675-6, Major Waldron, commissioner of the General Court for that territory now included in Maine, issued a general warrant for seizing, enslaving, and exporting every Indian "known to be a manslayer, traitor, or conspirator."[10] The reader will not be surprised to hear, that so monstrous an order, committed for execution to any or every man's irresponsible hands, was employed by many shipmasters for the vilest purposes of kidnapping and slave hunting. But in addition, in numerous instances whole companies of peaceable and inoffensive Indians, submitting to the colonial authorities, were seized and enslaved by publick order. In one case one hundred and fifty of the Dartmouth tribe, including their women and children, coming in by a voluntary submission, and under a general pledge of amnesty, and in another instance, four hundred of a different tribe, were shamelessly enslaved. By means of these 35 proceedings, the numbers of Indian servants became so large, that they were regarded as dangerous to the Colony. They were, moreover, often untameable in temper, prone to run away to their kinsmen in the neighbouring wilderness, and much less docile and effective for labour than the "blackamoors." Hence the prudent and thrifty saints saw the advantage of exporting them to the Bermudas, Barbadoes, and other islands, in exchange for negroes and merchandise; and this traffick, being much encouraged, and finally enjoined, by the authorities, became so extensive as to substitute negroes for Indian slaves, almost wholly in the Colony.[11] Among the slaves thus deported were the favourite wife and little son of the heroic King Philip. The holy Independent Divines, Cotton, Arnold, and Increase Mather, inclined to the opinion that he should be slain for his father's sins, after the example of the children of Achan and Agag;[12] but the authorities probably concluded that his deportation would be a more profitable, as well as a harsher punishment. These shocking incidents will no longer appear incredible to the reader, when he is informed that the same magistrates sold and transported into foreign slavery two English children, one of them a girl, for attending a Quaker meeting;[13] while the adult ladies present were fined £10 each, and whipped.[14]


In pleasing contrast with these enormities, stands the contemporaneous legislation of the Colony of Virginia touching its Indian neighbours. By three acts, 1655 to 1657, the colonists were strictly forbidden to trespass upon the lands of the Indians, or to dispossess them of their homes even by purchase. Slaying an Indian for his trespass was prohibited. The Indians, provided they were not armed, were authorized to pass freely through the several settlements, for trading, fishing, and gathering wild fruits. It was forbidden to enslave or deport any Indian, no matter under what circumstances he was captured; and Indian apprentices or servants for a term of years could only be held as such by authority of their parents, or if they had none, of the magistrates.[15] Their careful training in Christianity was enjoined, and at the end of their terms, their discharge, with wages, was secured by law.

The second, and more potent cause of development of the New England slave trade, was the commerce between those colonies and the West Indies. Each of the mother countries endeavoured to monopolize to herself all the trade and transportation of her own colonies. But it was the perpetual policy of Great Britain to intrude into this monopoly, which Spain preserved between herself and her colonies, while she jealously maintained her own intact. This motive prompted her 37 systematic connivance at every species of illicit navigation and traffick of her subjects in those seas. The New England colonies were not slow to imitate their brethren at home; and although their maritime ventures were as really violations of the colonial laws of England, as of the rights of Spain, the mother country easily connived at them for the sake of their direction. The Spanish Main was consequently the scene of a busy trade during the seventeenth century, which was as unscrupulous and daring as the operations of the Buccaneers of the previous age. The only difference was, that the red-handed plunder was now perpetrated on the African villages instead of the Spanish, and for the joint advantage of the New England adventurers and the Spanish and British planters. At length, the treaty of Utrecht, in 1712, recognized this encroaching trade, and provided for its extension throughout the Indies.[16] New England adventure, as well as British, thus received a new impetus. The wine-staves of her forests, the salt fish of her coasts, the tobacco and flour of Virginia, were exchanged for sugar and molasses. These were distilled into that famous New England rum, which, as Dr. Jeremy Belknap, of Massachusetts, declared, was the foundation of the African slave trade.[17] The slave ships, freighted with this rum, proceeded to the coast of Guinea, and, by a most gainful traffick, exchanged it for negroes, leaving the savage communities behind them on fire with barbarian excess, out of which a new crop of petty wars, murders, enslavements, 38 and kidnappings grew, to furnish future cargoes of victims; while they wafted their human freight to the Spanish and British Indies, Virginia, the Carolinas, and their own colonies. The larger number of their victims were sold in these markets; the less saleable remnants of cargoes were brought home, and sold in the New England ports. But not seldom, whole cargoes were brought thither directly. Dr. Belknap remembered, among many others, one which consisted almost wholly of children.[18]

Thus, the trade of which the good ship Desire, of Salem, was the harbinger, grew into grand proportions; and for nearly two centuries poured a flood of wealth into New England, as well as no inconsiderable number of slaves. The General Court of Massachusetts recognized the trade as legal, imposing a duty of £4 per head on each negro sold in the province, with a drawback for those resold out of it, or dying in twelve months.[19] The weight of this duty is only evidence of a desire to raise revenue, and to discourage the settlement of numbers of negroes in Massachusetts; not of any disapproval of the traffick in itself, as a proper employment of New England enterprise. The government of the province preferred white servants, and was already aware of the unprofitable nature of African labour in their inhospitable climate; but the furnishing of other colonies with negroes was a favoured branch of commerce. The increase of negro slaves in Massachusetts during the seventeenth century was slow. But the following century changed the record.

39 In 1720, Governor Shute states their numbers at two thousand. In 1754, a census of negroes gave four thousand five hundred; and the first United States census, in 1790, returned six thousand.[20]

Meantime, the other maritime colonies of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and Connecticut, followed the example of their elder sister emulously; and their commercial history is but a repetition of that of Massachusetts. The towns of Providence, Newport, and New Haven became famous slave trading ports. The magnificent harbour of the second, especially, was the favourite starting-place of the slave ships; and its commerce rivalled, or even exceeded, that of the present commercial metropolis, New York. All the four original States, of course, became slaveholding.[21]

No records exist, accessible to the historian, by which the numbers of slaves brought to this country by New England traders can be ascertained. Their 40 operations were mingled with those of Englishmen from the mother country. While the total of the operations of the latter, including their importations into the Spanish colonies, was greatly larger than that of the New Englanders, the latter probably sustained at least an equal share of the trade to the thirteen colonies, up to the time of the Revolution; and thenceforward, to the year 1808, when the importations were nominally arrested, they carried on nearly the whole. So that the presence of the major part of the four millions of Africans now in America, is due to New England. Some further illustrations will be given of the method and spirit in which that section conducted the trade. The number of The Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser for September 12th, 1763, contains the following:

"By a gentleman who arrived here a few days ago from the coast of Africa, we are informed of the arrivals of Captains Morris, Ferguson, and Wickham, of this port, who write very discouraging accounts of the trade upon the coast; and that upwards of two hundred gallons of real rum had been given for slaves per head, and scarcely to be got at any rate for that commodity. This must be sensibly felt by this poor and distressed Government, the inhabitants whereof being very large adventurers in the trade, having sent and about sending upwards of twenty sail of vessels, computed to carry in the whole about nine thousand hogsheads of rum, a quantity much too large for the places on the coast, where that commodity has generally been vended. We hear that many vessels are also gone and going from the neighbouring Governments, likewise from Barbadoes, from which place a large cargo of rum had arrived 41 before our informant left the coast, of which they gave two hundred and seventy gallons for a prime slave."

When it is remembered that the Massachusetts ports were then small towns, the fact that they had more than twenty ships simultaneously engaged in the trade to the Guinea coast alone, clearly reveals that it was the leading branch of their maritime adventure, and main source of their wealth. The ingenuous lament of the printer over the increasing cost of "a prime slave," gives us the correct clue to the change in their views concerning the propriety of the trade. When the negro rose in value to two hundred gallons "of real rum" (the sable slave hunters were becoming as acute as Brother Jonathan himself, touching the adulterated article), the conscience of the holy adventurer began to be disturbed about the righteousness of the traffick. When the slave cost two hundred and fifty gallons, the scruples became troublesome; and when his price mounted up towards three hundred, by reason of the imprudence of the naughty man with his large cargo, from Barbadoes, the stings of conscience became intolerable. By the principles of that religion which "supposeth that gain is godliness,"[22] the trade was now become clearly wrong.

The following extracts are from the letter of instructions given by a leading Salem firm to the captain of their ship, upon its clearing for the African coast:[23]


"Captain——: Our brig, of which you have the command, being cleared at the office, and being in every other respect complete for sea, our orders are, that you embrace the first fair wind, and make the best of your way to the coast of Africa, and there invest your cargo in slaves. As slaves, when brought to market, like other articles, generally appear to the best advantage; therefore too critical an inspection cannot be paid to them before purchase, to see that no dangerous distemper is lurking about them, to attend particularly to their age, to their countenances, to the straightness of their limbs, and, as far as possible, to the goodness or badness of their constitution, etc., etc., will be very considerable objects. Male or female slaves, whether full grown or not, we cannot particularly instruct you about; and on this head shall only observe that prime male slaves generally sell best in any market."

"Upon your return, you will touch at St. Pierre's, Martinico, and call on Mr. John Mounreau for your further advice and destination. We submit the conducting of the voyage to your good judgment and prudent management, not doubting of your best endeavours to serve our interest in all cases; and conclude with committing you to the almighty Disposer of all events."

The present commercial and manufacturing wealth of New England is to be traced, even more than that of Old England, to the proceeds of the slave trade, and slave labour. The capital of the former was derived mainly from the profits of the Guinea trade. The shipping which first earned wealth for its owners in carrying the bodies of the slaves, was next employed in 43 transporting the cotton, tobacco, and rice which they reared, and the imports purchased therewith. And when the unjust tariff policy of the United States allured the next generation of New Englanders to invest the swollen accumulations of their slave trading fathers in factories, it was still slave grown cotton which kept their spindles busy. The structure of New England wealth is cemented with the sweat and blood of Africans.

In bright contrast with its guilty cupidity, stands the consistent action of Virginia, which, from its very foundation as a colony, always denounced and endeavoured to resist the trade. It is one of the strange freaks of history, that this commonwealth, which was guiltless in this thing, and which always presented a steady protest against the enormity, should become, in spite of herself, the home of the largest number of African slaves found within any of the States, and thus, should be held up by Abolitionists as the representative of the "sin of slaveholding;" while Massachusetts, which was, next to England, the pioneer and patroness of the slave trade, and chief criminal, having gained for her share the wages of iniquity instead of the persons of the victims, has arrogated to herself the post of chief accuser of Virginia. It is because the latter colony was made, in this affair, the helpless victim of the tyranny of Great Britain and the relentless avarice of New England. The sober evidence of history which will be presented, will cause the breast of the most deliberate reader to burn with indignation for the injustice suffered by Virginia, and the profound hypocrisy of her detractors. 44

The preamble to the State Constitution of Virginia, drawn up by George Mason, and adopted by the Convention June 29th, 1776, was written by Thomas Jefferson. In the recital of grievances against Great Britain, which had prompted the commonwealth to assume its independence, this preamble contains the following words: "By prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us; those very negroes whom, by an inhuman use of his negative, he had refused us permission to exclude by law."[24] Mr. Jefferson, long a leading member of the House of Burgesses, and most learned of all his contemporaries in the legislation of his country, certainly knew whereof he affirmed. His witness is more than confirmed by that of Mr. Madison,[25] who says: "The British Government constantly checked the attempts of Virginia to put a stop to this infernal traffick." Mr. Jefferson, in a passage which was expunged from the Declaration of Independence by New England votes in the Congress, strongly stated the same charge. And George Mason, perhaps the greatest and most influential of Virginians, next to Washington, reiterated the accusation with equal strength, in the speech in the Federal Convention, 1787, in which he urged the immediate prohibition of the slave trade by the United States. See Madison Papers, vol. iii., pp. 1388-1398. A learned Virginian antiquary has found, notwithstanding the destruction of the appropriate evidences, which will be explained anon, no less than twenty-eight several attempts made by the Burgesses to arrest the evil by their legislation, all of which were 45 either suppressed or negatived by the proprietary or royal authority. A learned and pious Huguenot divine, having planted his family in the colony, in the first half of the last century, bears this testimony: "But our Assembly, foreseeing the ill consequences of importing such numbers among us, hath often attempted to lay a duty upon them which would amount to a prohibition, such as ten or twenty pounds a head; but no governor dare pass such a law, having instructions to the contrary from the Board of Trade at home. By this means they are forced upon us, whether we will or not. This plainly shows the African Company hath the advantage of the colonies, and may do as it pleases with the ministry."[26] These personal testimonies are recited the more carefully, because the Vandalism of the British officers at the Revolution annihilated that regular documentary evidence, to which the appeal might otherwise be made. Governor Dunmore first, and afterwards Colonel Tarleton and Earl Cornwallis, carried off and destroyed all the archives of the colony which they could seize, and among them the whole of the original journals of the House of Burgesses, except the volumes containing the proceedings of 1769 and 1772. The only sure knowledge which remains of those precious records is derived from other documents and fragmentary copies of some passages, found afterwards in the desks of a few citizens. The wonderfully complete collection of their laws edited by Hening, under the title of "Statutes at Large," was drawn from copies and collections of the acts which, having received the assent 46 of the governors and kings, were promulgated to the counties as actual law. Of course the suppressed and negatived motions against the slave trade are not to be sought among these, but could only have been found in the lost journals of the House. But enough of the documentary evidence remains, to substantiate triumphantly the testimony of individuals.

The first act touching the importation of slaves, which was allowed by the royal governor and king, was that of the 11th William III., 1699, laying an impost of twenty shillings upon each servant or African slave imported. The motive assigned is the raising of a revenue to rebuild the Capitol or State House, lately burned down; and the law was limited to three years.[27] This impost was renewed for two farther terms of three years, by subsequent Assemblies.[28] Before the expiration of this period, the Assembly of 1705 laid a permanent duty of sixpence per head on all passengers and slaves entering the colony;[29] and this little burthen, the most which the jealousy of the British slave traders would permit, was the germ of the future taxes on the importation. This impost was increased by the Assembly of 1732, to a duty of five per centum ad valorem, for four years.[30] Subsequent Assemblies continued this tax until 1740, and then doubled it, on the plea of the war then existing.[31] During the remainder of the colonial government, the impost remained at this grade, ten per centum on the price of the slaves, and twenty per centum upon those 47 imported from Maryland or Carolina. As the all-powerful African Company in England was not concerned in maintaining a transit of the slaves from one colony to another, after they were once off their hands, they permitted the Burgesses to do as they pleased with the Maryland and Carolina importations. Here, therefore, we have an unconfined expression of the sentiments of the Assemblies; and they showed their fixed opposition to the trade by imposing what was virtually a prohibitory duty. In 1769, the House of Burgesses passed an act for raising the duty on all slaves imported, to twenty per centum.[32] The records of the Executive Department show that this law was vetoed by the king, and declared repealed by a proclamation of William Nelson, President of the Council, April 3d, 1771. The Assembly of 1772 passed the same law again, with the substitution of a duty of £5 per head, instead of the twenty per centum, on slaves from Maryland and Carolina;[33] and it received the signature of Governor Dunmore. It may well be doubted whether it escaped the royal veto.

But the House now proceeded to a more direct effort to extinguish the nefarious traffick. Friday, March 20th, 1772, it was[34] "Resolved, that an humble address be prepared to be presented to his Majesty, to express the high opinion we entertain of his benevolent intentions towards his subjects in the colonies, and that we are thereby induced to ask his paternal assistance in averting a calamity of a most alarming nature; that the importation of negroes from Africa has long been 48 considered as a trade of great inhumanity, and under its present encouragement may endanger the existence of his American dominions; that self-preservation, therefore, urges us to implore him to remove all restraints on his Governors from passing acts of Assembly which are intended to check this pernicious commerce; and that we presume to hope the interests of a few of his subjects in Great Britain will be disregarded, when such a number of his people look up to him for protection in a point so essential; that when our duty calls upon us to make application for his attention to the welfare of this, his antient colony, we cannot refrain from renewing those professions of loyalty and affection we have so often, with great sincerity, made, or from assuring him that we regard his wisdom and virtue as the surest pledges of the happiness of his people."

"Ordered, That a Committee be appointed to draw up an address to be presented to his Majesty, upon the said resolution." And a Committee was appointed of Mr. Harrison, Mr. Carey, Mr. Edmund Pendleton, Mr. Richard Henry Lee, Mr. Treasurer, and Mr. Bland.

"Wednesday, April 1st, 1772: Mr. Harrison reported from the Committee appointed upon Friday, the twentieth day of last month, to draw up an address to be presented to his Majesty, that the Committee had drawn up an address accordingly, which they had directed him to report to the House; and he read the same in his place; which is as followeth," etc. The address is so nearly in the words of the resolution, that the reader need not be detained by its repetition. The House agreed, nemine contradicente, to the address, and the 49 same Committee was appointed to present an address to the Governor, asking him to transmit the address to his Majesty, "and to support it in such manner as he shall think most likely to promote the desirable end proposed." This earnest appeal met the fate of all the previous: Mammon and the African Company were still paramount at Court, over humanity and right. But the Revolution was near at hand, bringing a different redress for the grievance.

On the 15th of May, 1776, Virginia declared her independence of Great Britain, and the Confederacy, following her example, issued its declaration on the 4th of July of the same year. The strict blockade observed by the British navy, of course arrested the foreign slave trade, as well as all other commerce. But in 1778, the State of Virginia, determined to provide in good time against the resumption of the traffick when commerce should be reopened, gave final expression to her will against it. At the General Assembly held October 5th, Patrick Henry being Governor of the Commonwealth, the following law was the first passed:


    "I. For preventing the farther importation of slaves into this Commonwealth: Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That from and after the passing of this act, no slave or slaves shall hereafter be imported into this Commonwealth by sea or land, nor shall any slaves so imported be bought or sold by any person whatsoever. 50

    "II. Every person hereafter importing slaves into this Commonwealth contrary to this act, shall forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand pounds for every slave so imported, and every person selling or buying any such slaves, shall in like manner forfeit and pay the sum of five hundred pounds for every slave so bought or sold, one moiety of which forfeitures shall be to the use of the Commonwealth, and the other moiety to him or them that will sue for the same, to be recovered by action of debt or information in any court of record.

    "III. And be it further enacted, That every slave imported into this Commonwealth, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, shall, upon such importation, become free."

The remaining sections of the law only proceed to exempt from the penalty citizens of the other United States, coming to live as actual residents with their slaves in the Commonwealth, and citizens of Virginia bringing in slaves from other States of the union by actual inheritance.

Thus Virginia has the honour of being the first Commonwealth on earth to declare against the African slave trade, and to make it a penal offence. Her action antedates by thirty years the much bepraised legislation of the British Parliament, and by ten years the earliest movement of Massachusetts on the subject; while it has the immense advantage, besides, of consistency; because she was never stained by any complicity in the trade, and she exercised her earliest untrammelled power to stay its evils effectually in her dominions. Thus, almost before the Clarksons and Wilberforces 51 were born, had Virginia done that very work for which her slanderers now pretend so much to laud those philanthropists. All that these reformers needed to do was to bid the British Government go and imitate the example which Virginia was the first to set, among the kingdoms of the world. It is true that the first Congress of 1774, at Philadelphia, had adopted a resolution that the slave trade ought to cease; but this body had no powers, either federal or national; it was a mere committee; and its inspiration upon this subject, as upon most others, came from Virginia. In 1788, Massachusetts passed an act forbidding her citizens from importing, transporting, buying, or selling any of the inhabitants of Africa as slaves, on a penalty of fifty pounds for each person so misused, and of two hundred pounds for every vessel employed in this traffick. Vessels which had already sailed were exempted from all penalty for their present voyages.[36] It is manifest from the character of the penalties, that this law was not passed to be enforced; and the evidence soon to be adduced will show, beyond all doubt, that this is true. The act was one of those cheap tributes which Pharisaic avarice knows so well how to pay to appearances. Connecticut passed a very similar law the same year, prohibiting her citizens to engage in the slave trade, and voiding the policies of insurance on slave ships. The slave trade of New England continued in increasing activity for twenty years longer.

It may be said, that if the government of Virginia was opposed to the African slave trade, her people purchased 52 more of its victims than those of any other colony; and the aphorism may be quoted against them, that the receiver is as guilty as the thief. This is rarely true in the case of individuals, and when applied to communities, it is notoriously false. All States contain a large number of irresponsible persons. The character of a free people as a whole should be estimated by that of its corporate acts, in which the common will is expressed. The individuals who purchased slaves of the traders were doubtless actuated by various motives. Many persuaded themselves that, as they were already enslaved, and without their agency, and as their refusal to purchase them would have no effect whatever to procure their restoration to their own country and to liberty, they might become their owners, without partaking in the wrong of which they were the victims. Many were prompted by genuine compassion, because they saw that to buy the miserable creatures was the only practicable way in their reach to rescue them from their pitiable condition; for tradition testifies that often when the captives were exposed in long ranks upon the shore, near their floating prisons, for the inspection of purchasers, they besought the planters and their wives to buy them, and testified an extravagant joy and gratitude at the event. All purchasers were, perhaps, influenced partly by the convenience and advantage of possessing their labour. Had every individual in Virginia been as intelligent and virtuous as the patriots who, in the Burgesses, denounced the inhuman traffick, the colony might perhaps have remained without a slave, notwithstanding the two centuries of temptation during which its ports 53 were plied with cargoes seeking sale. But a commonwealth without a single weak, or selfish, or bad man, is a Utopia. The proper rulers were forbidden by the mother country to employ that prohibitory legislation which is, in all States, the necessary guardian of the publick virtue; and it is therefore that we place the guilt of the sale where that of the importation justly belongs. Doubtless many an honourable citizen, after sincerely sustaining the endeavour of his Burgess to arrest the whole trade, himself purchased Africans, because he saw that their general introduction into the country was inevitable, without legislative interference; and his self-denial would only have subjected him to the severe inconveniences of being without slaves in a community of slaveholders, whilst it did not arrest the evil.

The government of Virginia was unquestionably actuated, in prohibiting the slave trade, by a sincere sense of its intrinsic injustice and cruelty. Mr. Jefferson, a representative man, in his "Notes on Virginia," had given indignant expression to this sentiment. And the reprobation of that national wrong, with regret for the presence of the African on the soil, was the universal feeling of that generation which succeeded the Revolution; while they firmly asserted the rightfulness of that slavery which they had inherited. But human motives are always complex; and along with the moral disapprobation for the crime against Africa, the Burgesses felt other motives, which, although more personal, were right and proper. They were sober, wise and practical men, who felt that to protect the rights, purity, and prosperity of their own country and posterity, 54 was more properly their task, than to plead the wrongs of a distant and alien people, great although those wrongs might be. They deprecated the slave trade, because it was peopling their soil so largely with an inferior and savage race, incapable of union, instead of with civilized Englishmen. This was precisely their apprehension of the enormous wrong done the colony by the mother country. They understood also the deep political motive which combined with the lust of gain to prompt the relentless policy of the Home Government. With it, the familiar argument was: "Let us stock the plantations plentifully with Africans, not only that they may be good customers for our manufactures, and producers for our commerce; but that they may remain dependent and submissive. An Englishman who emigrates, becomes the bold assertor of popular and colonial rights; but the negro is only fit for bondage." For the same reason, the colonies felt that the forcing of the Africans upon them was as much a political as a social wrong. But that righteous Providence, whose glory it is to make the crimes of the designing their own punishment, employed African slavery in the Southern colonies as a potent influence in forming the character of the Southern gentleman, without whose high spirit, independence, and chivalry, America would never have won her freedom from British rule.

This contrast between the policy and principles of Virginia and of the New England colonies will be concluded with two evidences. The one is presented in the history of the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Jefferson, the author, states that he had inserted in the 55 enumeration of grievances against the King of Great Britain, a paragraph strongly reprobating his arbitrary support of the slave trade, against the remonstrances of some of the colonies. When the Congress discussed the paper, this paragraph was struck out, "in complaisance," he declares, "to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also, I believe, felt a little tender under these censures; for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others."[37] Thus New England assisted to expunge from that immortal paper a testimony against the slave trade, which Virginia endeavoured to place there.

The other evidence is presented by a case much more practical. In the Convention of 1787, which framed the Constitution of the United States, two questions concerning African slaves caused dissension. Upon the supreme right of the States over the whole subject of slavery within their own dominions, upon the recognition of slaves as property protected by the federal laws, wherever slavery existed, and upon the fugitive slave law, not a voice was raised in opposition. But the Convention presumed (what subsequent history did not confirm,) that the main expenses of the federal government would be met by direct taxation; and some principle was to be adopted, for determining how slaves should rank with freemen, in assessing capitation taxes, and apportioning representation. The other 56 question of difficulty was the suppression of the African slave trade, which, upon the return of peace, had been actively revived by New England, with the connivance of Carolina and Georgia. The Southern States, who expected to have nearly the whole tax on slaves to pay, desired to rate them very low; some members proposed that five slaves should count as equal to only one white freeman; others, that three slaves should count for one. The New England colonies generally desired to make a negro count as a white man, both for representation and taxation! After much difference, the majority of the Convention agreed to a middle conclusion proposed by Mr. Madison, that five negroes should count for three persons.[38] But the other question was not so easily arranged. The Committee of eleven appointed to draw up a first draught of a constitution had proposed that in Art. vii., § 4, of their draught, Congress should be prohibited from laying any import duty on African slaves brought into the country. The effect of this, so far as the federal government was concerned, would be to legalize the slave trade forever, and protect it from all burdens.[39] Maryland (by her legislature, then sitting,) to her immortal honour, and Pennsylvania and Virginia, exhibited a determination to change this section, so as to arrest the trade through the action of the federal government, either by prohibition or tax. The New England States, South Carolina, and Georgia, opposed them, and advocated the original section, assigning various grounds. The difference threatened to make shipwreck of the whole work of 57 the Convention, when Gouverneur Morris adroitly proposed to commit the subject, along with that of the proposed navigation law, in order that disagreeing parties might be induced, by private conference, to combine mutual concessions into a sort of bargain. The subjects were accordingly committed to a Committee of one from each State. This Committee reported, August 24th, "in favour of not allowing Congress to prohibit the importation of slaves before 1800, but giving them power to impose a duty at a rate not exceeding the average of other imports." South Carolina (through General Pinckney) moved to prolong the importation from 1800 to 1808, and Massachusetts (through Mr. Gorham) seconded the motion. It was then passed, as last proposed, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, (the only New England States then present,) Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina, voting in the affirmative, and New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia in the negative.[40] The maritime States soon after gained their point, of authorizing Congress to pass, by a majority vote, a navigation law for their advantage.

Thus, by the assistance of New England, the iniquities of the African slave trade, and the influx of that alien and savage race into America, were prolonged from the institution of the federal government until 1808. Is it said, that New England had at this time no interest in slavery, did not value it, and was already engaged in removing it at home? This is true; and it is so much the worse for her historical position. It 58 only shows that she desired to fix that institution which she had ascertained to be a curse to her, upon her neighbours, for the sake of keeping open twenty years longer an infamous but gainful employment, and of securing a legislative bounty to her shipping. In other words, her policy was simply mercenary. And these votes for prolonging the slave trade effectually rob her of credit for emancipation at home; proving beyond all peradventure, that the latter measure was wholly prompted by her sense of her own interests, and not of the rights of the negro. For if the latter motive had governed, must it not have made her the equal opponent of the increase of slavery in Carolina and Georgia?

But the agency of New England in that increase was still more active and direct. As though to "make hay while the sun shone," the people of that section renewed their activity on the African coast, with a diligence continually increasing up to 1808. Carey, in his work upon the slave trade, estimates the importations into the thirteen colonies between 1771 and 1790, (nineteen years,) at thirty-four thousand; but that between the institution of the federal government and 1808, he places at seventy thousand. His estimate here is unquestionably far too low; because forty thousand were introduced at the port of Charleston, South Carolina, alone, the last four years;[41] and within the years 1806 and 1807, there were six hundred arrivals of New England slavers at that place.[42] The latter fact shows that those States must have possessed nearly the whole traffick. And the former bears out Mr. De Bow, in enlarging 59 the total of importations under the federal government to one hundred and twenty-five thousand, at least. For the average at one port was ten thousand per year. In 1860, there were ten-fold as many Africans in the United States as had been originally brought thither from Africa. But as many of these had been multiplying for four, or even five generations, this rate of increase is too large to assume for the importations of 1800, whose descendants had only come to the third generation. Assuming the half as nearly correct, which seems a moderate estimate, we find their increase five-fold. So that there were, in 1860, six hundred and twenty-five thousand more slaves in the United States than would have been found here, had not New England's cruelty and avarice assisted to prolong the slave trade nineteen years after Virginia and the federal government would otherwise have arrested it.

After the British, and even after the other governments of Europe, had abolished the trade in name, it continued with a vast volume. Whereas at the time of the abolition, in 1808, eighty-five thousand slaves were taken from Africa annually, nearly fifty thousand annually were still carried, as late as 1847, to Brazil and the Spanish Indies.[43] In this illicit trade, no Virginian (and, indeed, no Southern) ship or shipmaster has ever been in a single case implicated, although our State had meantime begun no inconsiderable career of maritime adventure. But adventurers from New England ports and New York were continually found sharing the lion's portion of the foul spoils. And to the latest 60 reclamations of the British Government upon the Brazilian, for violations of the treaties and laws against the slave trade upon the extended shores of that empire, the answer of its noble Emperor has still been, that if Britain would find the real culprits, she must go to the ports of Boston and New York to seek them.[44]

But one more fact remains: When the late Confederate Government adopted a constitution, although it was composed exclusively of slaveholding States, it voluntarily did what the United States has never done: it placed an absolute prohibition of the foreign slave trade in its organic law.


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