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ity in this connection-rest as quietly as possible, except in so far as they can be made to serve in wellmeaning benevolent efforts to solve the great and threatening Negro question, which at this moment casts a very dark-but we believe a slowly dissipating-shadow over the continued peace and prosperity of this nation.


The Status of the Negro, and Negro Slavery, During the Closing Years of British Sovereignty, and Under the Confederation

HERE is nowhere to be found a proverb more pregnant with truth than that governments are as good, and no better, than their units-the individuals who compose them; governments are, in consequence, found to vary somewhat with different peoples, and in different times, according to the individual and composite character of their citizenship. Therefore it must be admitted that, at best, human government is very imperfect and never entirely free from corruption.

Thus we find-contrary to the belief of somethat the average standard of justice and right among the early colonists was-largely through ignorance -none too high. It was distinctly lower than that of the later period, of government under the Confederation, and under the Constitution.

In accordance with the principle just stated the dreadful condition and treatment of the subject Negro race were somewhat better under the Confederation, and continued to improve, slowly, under the Constitution, until we reached a point when the moral standards of the whole people had been so elevated that slavery was no longer tolerable.

It should be well remembered as a point to be made use of in our later argument, concerning the final solution of the Negro question-that this emancipation did not come to the black race through any

effort, or ability, to assert its rights; it was wholly through the improved moral standards of the greater portion of our white population. In other words the Negro possessed no ability whatsoever to help or free himself. So long as he had plenty of food, and outlets for his ordinary animal passions, he remained happy and content. We could not have held as chattels that number of Jews, or even a like number of Japanese. In fact it is questionable if it would have been possible to enslave and so grossly punish and abuse a similar number of Amerinds. The modest mental capacities of the Negro were, in the first instance, the secret of his capture and reduction to unlimited servitude; and, secondly, the explanation of his peaceful submission, in great numbers, to a condition of absolute slavery extending over a period of centuries.

In the year 1776, and after, laws were passed and attempts made to abolish slavery in the colony of Massachusetts, and juries, in one case after another, uniformly declared that the laws then on the statute books did not sanction slavery. Their decisions from that time onward were invariably against slavery and in favor of freedom. This enlightened and progressive attitude of Massachusetts had contemporaneous support by the courts of England.

About this time the celebrated case of one James Sumersett was brought before the court of Kings bench in England. This suit was brought on a writ of habeas corpus and argued, first before Lord Mansfield, and then before the full court. The final opinion, handed down by Lord Mansfield, that there was no positive law to support slavery in England, and, therefore, the black must be discharged. This noted case seems to have established a lasting precedent and settled the question in England in favor of

universal human freedom for all future time.

Notwithstanding the fact that every case brought before a jury in the commonwealth of Massachusetts after 1776, resulted in individual freedom, it failed to produce any general emancipation. This of course was due to the inherent greed of a large class of citizens. They were holding fast to this pernicious practice, regardless of its established injustice and immorality.

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A year or two later a declaration inserted into the Massachusetts Bill of Rights declared that "all men are born free and equal. Taken literally this statement, which Jefferson had already incorporated into the Declaration of American Independence, is certainly far from true. However, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts held that this Declaration prohibited slavery within her confines; thus annulling all legal claims to property rights in human beings, so far as that colony or commonwealth, was concerned.

In the very recent, and excellent, publication of the late Honorable B. B. Munford of Richmond, Virginia, on "Virginia's Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession," his patriotism, and commendable ardor, to place the most favorable construction on Virginia's attitude regarding these questions, seem at times to have dominated his better judgment, and caused him-in spite of the noblest intentions-to violate certain recorded facts of history. For instance he gives Virginia credit for a position which unquestionably belongs to Massachusetts, by virtue of the latter's laws and court-decrees herein related.

Mr. Munford says: "Foremost among the laws enacted by her General Assembly after Virginia's declaration of independence from British rule was her celebrated statute prohibiting the slave-trade. This act was passed in 1778,-thus antedating by

thirty years the like action of Great Britain. By this law it was provided 'that from and after the passing of this act no slaves should hereafter be imported into this commonwealth by sea or land, nor shall any slave so imported be sold or bought by any person whatsoever.' The statute imposed a fine of one thousand pounds upon the person importing them for each slave imported, and also a fine of five hundred pounds upon any person buying or selling any such slave for each slave bought or sold. The crime of bringing in slaves is still further guarded against by a provision which declares that every slave 'shall upon such importation become free.' Of this act Mr. Ballagh, in his History of Slavery in Virginia, says, 'Virginia thus had the honor of being the first political community in the civilized modern world to prohibit the pernicious traffic.'


In thus sanctioning the comment and claim of Mr. Ballagh, Mr. Munford-like Mr. Ballagh-went a little too far, for Massachusetts, by a combination of her organic law and a decision of her highest judiciary, had two years previously (1776) struck a death-blow at the very root of the vile practice, and sounded the death-knell of human chattelism so far as her jurisdiction was concerned. Moreover, England had at or about the same time,-by the court-decree which we have given,-permanently abolished slavery.

Therefore, admitting the wisdom of the Virginia act quoted, and commending it so far as it goes, Massachusetts was and is clearly entitled to the high honor which the esteemed author so sincerely computes to Virginia. The very fact that the author himself is a son of Virginia would incline him to be the more scrupulous and painstaking in assigning historic honor and glory where such glory and honor

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