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against the “ peculiar institution.” I regarded it an evil, and only an evil. But while my general views of the legitimate workings of the system remain unchanged, candor compels me to admit, that, if all slaves were as well cared for, as kindly treated, as well instructed, and were they all as contented and happy as yours; and, especially, were there no evils incident to the system greater than I saw with you, I would simply divest slavery of its odious name, and it would virtually be slavery no longer. The plantations at the South would then, perhaps, with some propriety be denominated communities of intelligent, happy, Christian peasants. And yet it is slavery, as it really takes away inalienable rights. Would to God that slavery as it exists with you were a fair illustration of the system. But alas! it is not. Perhaps you may say that “it is impossible for a northern man to speak of slavery so as to do the subject justice.” You may indeed know more and better than we do about the state and condition of the slaves. But in some respects, where great principles are involved, we at the North are more competent than you, for our judgment is less liable to be biased by self-interest; and in my remarks I shall confine myself chiefly to those points on which a northern man is at least as well qualified to speak as a slaveholder.
What, then, are some of the prominent characteristics of American slavery as a system ?
First, Slavery ignores and repudiates the foundation-stone on which rests our renowned Declaration of Independence. That document, for more than three fourths of a century, has been the boast and glory of America. It is the platform on which our noble ancestors planted their feet, with a consciousness that they stood on the eternal principles of truth and justice. To maintain these principles, relying on God for aid, they pledged to each other “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.” Our fathers knew that they were right, and, to carry out the principles embodied in this Declaration, many of them cheerfully poured out their heart's blood to defend the “unalienable rights" of humanity.
Now let us turn our attention to the foundation paragraph of this memorable Declaration ;I do not mean in that general way in which it is often read, but minutely and particularly ; - let us calmly look at it in its full import, and not shrink back and avert our eyes on account of a foreboding that we shall be led to conclusions which we would be glad to avoid.
“ We hold these truths to be self-evident;— that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights ;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
These significant words are inscribed upon the scroll of our nation's history, and there they will remain till time shall be no longer. They need no glossary or explanation. He who runs may read them, and he who reads can understand them. The sentiment they embody it is impossible to mistake; it stands out in bold relief, like the sun in the heavens. It is, that every man has received, from a higher than earthly power, a charter, which secures to him the unalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is impossible for the most ultra advocate of “human rights” to paraphrase these words, or give them a rendering so as to make them support his dogmas more strongly than they now do. On the contrary, he would only weaken their force by the attempt.
Now, my dear brother, I would candidly, seriously ask you — I would ask all your southern friends - I would ask everybody, Can the sentiment of that Declaration be consistent with American slavery? Are not slaves men? Do color and degradation change a creature of God from a human being to a soulless brute? No; our southern brethren would as indignantly repudiate this infidel view as we at the North.
Now if a slave is a man, he has received from his Creator an unalienable right to liberty if he chooses to avail himself of it, or else the first principle laid down in our revered Declaration of Independence, so far from being "self evident," is in fact untrue, and ought at once to be taken from its honored position in the archives of these United States, and consigned to the heaps of rubbish of the dark ages.
But does the slave enjoy this liberty? or is it within his reach? It will not be pretended. The very name by which his class is designated forbids it. The term free slave is a solecism. His liberty consists in the freedom to do as he is told to do, or suffer punishment for his disobedience, and he can pursue happiness only in accordance with the will of his master.
There is the same incongruity between slavery and that clause in our constitution which stipulates that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Now, my brother, does it not require considerable ingenuity and special pleading to avoid conclusions to which unbiased common would arrive in an instant, in the application of these declared rights to persons held as slaves ? I am not going to inflict upon you a dissertation, or a series of syllogisms on this hackneyed subject, but I beg that you and your friends will calmly look again at what, I doubt not, you have seen before, - the palpable incongruity between the system of holding persons perpetually in slavery without their consent, and those declared, self-evident, heaven bestowed, unalienable rights professedly secured to all men in these United States by our glorious constitution. Said that great statesman and patriot, Henry Clay: “We present to the world the sorry spectacle of a nation that worships Slavery as a household goddess, after having constituted Liberty the presiding divinity over church and state."
Surely something must be out of joint here. I have looked again and again at this matter, I Ι think with perfect candor, and I have tried to the utmost of my ability to reconcile these apparent inconsistencies, but I cannot do it. Can
you? Believe me, as ever, your sincere friend and