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who has given all men a right to be free.” A little later he was more explicit in regard to slavery, maintaining that “ no good reason can be given for enslaving those of any other color. Is it right,” he asked, “to enslave a man because his color is black, or his hair short and curls like wool ? Can any logical inference in favor of slavery be drawn from a flat nose or a long or short face? Liberty,” he exclaimed, " is the gift of God, and cannot be annihilated!”
The burning words of Otis fired the colonies from one extreme to the other, and Adams, then a young man of 25, declares that he could never afterward read the Acts of Trade without a feeling of anger; but he could not, at first, accept the radical position taken by the orator, and declares that he “shuddered at the doctrines which Otis taught.” Of course, these doctrines were mainly applied to the circumstances in hand, and not to Negro slavery ; but as they spread through the colonies they fastened on minds which took in their logical consequences, and from that day slavery began to wane in Massachusetts and in most of the other northern colonies. In the South the doctrines of Otis and their logical tendencies were accepted by the leaders of public opinion; but the new developments in the culture of cotton made slavery so profitable that a majority could never be brought to relinquish it. Washington avowed in his correspondence that "it was among his first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery may be abolished by law.” Patrick Henry wrote: “Would any body believe that I am a master of slaves by my own purchase? I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living here without them; but I cannot, I will not, justify it." Madison, George Mason, Col. Bland, and Mr. Jef. ferson stood on the same basis. Mr. Jefferson and other Southern members of Congress voted for and succeeded in securing the exclusion of slavery from the North-west Territory, and in the Virginia Assembly, on motion of Mr. Jefferson, (1778,) the further introduction of slaves into Virginia was prohibited. A little later (1782) the old colonial statute forbidding emancipation was repealed; and Maryland followed the example of Virginia in both these cases. But Mr. Jeffer
“he soon saw that nothing was to be hoped,” and in a letter, in his old age, he narrates a bit of his experience thus:
From those of a former generation, who were in the fullness of age when I came into public life, I soon learned that nothing was to be hoped. Nursed and educated in the daily habit of seeing the degraded condition, both bodily and mental, of those unfortunate beings, not reflecting that that degradation was very much the work of themselves and their fathers, few had yet doubted that they were as legitimate subjects of property as their horses or cattle. The quiet and monotonous course of colonial life had been disturbed by no alarm and little reflection on the value of liberty, and when alarm was taken at an enterprise of their own it was not easy to carry them the whole length of the principles which they invoked for themselves. In the first or second session of the Legislature, after I became a member, I drew to this subject the attention of Col. Bland, one of the oldest, ablest, and most respectable members, and he undertook
move for certain inoderate extensions of the protection of the laws for these people. I seconded his motion, and, as a younger member, was more spared in the debate ; but he was denounced as an enemy to his country and was treated with the greatest indecorum.*
The discussion went on, hot and fierce, in all the colonies, and ended in the long Revolutionary War, which brought independence and liberty of action. In the meantime, many Negroes had gone into the army and laid down their lives for a liberty which they did not possess, decpening the convictions which had fastened on the public mind and which were everywhere manifested by calls on the newly made States to blot out the black stain of slavery. The change that was going on in public opinion was reflected across the water; and the people of England began to speak out against slavery and the slave-trade as they had never done before. In 1765 the case of Jonathan Strong enlisted the sympathies of Grenville Sharpe, and challenged the attention of a great portion of the English people; in 1768 another slave case was brought to the attention of the English courts through the sympathy of Mr. Sharpe, and was decided in favor of the slave. In 1774 John Wesley issued his celebrated tract on slavery; and two years later David Hartley, a member of Parliament, and Adam Smith, a distinguished author, came out against it. The English pulpit also began to thunder against it, and the public opinion of England was so wrought upon that when the Somerset case came before Lord Mansfield in 1772 it was so treated as to
* Quoted by Blake, page 390.
reverse the action of all the preceding courts, and put an end to slavery in England.*
In the Northern American Colonies and States the course of action was not very different, and the general procedure may be inferred from what took place in Massachusetts. There the change began to manifest itself:
1. By what were called “liberty suits” brought before the courts. All attempts to free the slaves by legislation failed, although the action seemed to indicate a majority in the General Court against it; but individuals, inspired by the views of liberty which now prevailed in the State, instituted suits in special cases in which slaves demanded wages withheld from them on the ground that they were slaves, while they claimed their freedom ; or for being unlawfully held in servitude, or for being beaten by those claiming to be their masters. These suits were not numerous, but they were generally decided in favor of the slaves. They had no effect, however, beyond the individual actions which they settled.
2. Another indication of the change is to be found in the more frequent and earnest action of individuals and communities in regard to the wrong of slavery. The press began to groan with tracts against it. In 1767 an anonymous tract of twenty pages was written by Nathaniel Appleton, a merchant of Boston. In 1769 Rev. Samuel Webster published “ An Earnest Address to my Country on Slavery.” In 1773 James Swan, a merchant of Boston, printed “A Dissuasion from the Slave-Trade, Showing the Injustice Thereof." · In 1763 the representatives from Salem were instructed to use their exertions “to prevent the importation of Negroes into Massachusetts," as “repugnant to the natural rights of mankind and highly prejudicial to the province.” In the same year the town of Medford instructed its member to use his utmost influence to have a final period put to that most cruel, inhuman, and unchristian practice—the slave-trade.” In the
* James Somerset, an African slave, went to England with his master, James Stewart, in 1769, and soon after left without leave and was seized and put on a vessel to be carried out of the Kingdom and sold. The question before the court was whether a slave by coming into England became free. The case was argued in January, February, and May, attracting great attention, and the result was a determination that as soon as a slave set his foot on English territory he became free.— Blake on Slavery, page 165.
the town of Leicester instructed its representative “ that we cannot behold but with the greatest abhorrence any of our fellow-creatures in a state of slavery.” Hence, they demand that he shall act against it. In 1765 the town of Worcester required its representative to his influence to obtain a law to put an end to that unchristian and impolitic practice of making slaves of the human species,” etc. In 1766 the town of Boston instructed its representatives "for the total abolition of slavery among us, and that you move for a law to prohibit the importation and purchase of slaves for the future."
3. Another indication to the same effect was the decrease of slavery in the colony. We have seen that it increased rapidly prior to the agitation in regard to colonial rights, and that at the census of 1764, three years after the speech of James Otis on the “writs of assistance," the number of slaves was 5,779. But thenceforward, although the population continued to increase, the slaves diminished in number. In 1776, when the next census was taken, they numbered only 5,249, and every year thereafter showed a small decrease, till the whole system was swept away.
4. Another indication existed in the changed tone of religious men and religious denominations. Opposition to slavery grew strong in the Churches, and the pulpit began to thunder against it. Among the great names in controversial theology was that of Rev. Stephen Hopkins, of Rhode Island—the head and front of Hopkinsianism and the leading character in Mrs. Stowe's celebrated novel, “The Minister's Wooing.” Her account of his determined opposition to slavery, his denunciation of it from the pulpit, and the divisions which it caused in his church and congregation, is the history of many other ministers and churches in the Northern States. The Quakers, as we have seen, were among the earliest to go to the rescue of the slave. The Presbyterians, in the United Synod of New York and Philadelphia, acting as the General Assembly of the Church in America, issued a pastoral letter in 1778 in which they strongly recommended the abolition of elavery and the instruction of the Negroes in letters and religion. The Methodists, then just rising into notice as a religious denomination, were very earnest for the abolition of slavery, and called its members to a strict account for the treatment of their slaves.
Blake, in his history says: “They had even gone so far as to disqualify slave-holders to be members of their communion." He adds that “ Coke, their first Bishop, was exceedingly zealous on this subject, but that the rule was afterward relaxed.”
This high ground on the subject of slavery is in curious contrast with the action of “Old John Street” a little earlier. According to Rev. J. B. Wakeley, this old church, the first Methodist church built in America, bought a slave to do the sweeping and cleaning of the building, and to perform the general duties of sexton. This curious piece of church history shows more conclusively than any words would do the complete obliviousness that then existed of any wrong in the practice of holding slaves, and the great change that took place when the wrong was duly exposed.
5. Still another indication was to be found in the formation of societies to promote the abolition of slavery. A society of this description, organized in Philadelphia in 1787, was sustained by the great names of Benjamin Franklin and Richard Rush. Dr. Franklin was president, and Dr. Rush and Tench Coxe, secretaries. Its object was “to promote the abolition of slavery, to relieve the free Negroes unlawfully held in bondage, and to improve the condition of the African race." A similar society in New York had behind it the name and influence of John Jay, soon to be Chief-Justice of the United States Court. But the change in public sentiment was not confined, as we have seen, to the Northern States. It also prevailed largely in the States South. Immediately after the war the Legislature of Virginia appointed Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Wythe a commission to revise the State laws. In the performance of their duty the question arose as to what should be the action in reference to slavery. After considering the matter and consulting with friends they agreed to report a clause in favor of gradual emancipation. But when the revision was completed, and was ready to be presented to the House of Delegates, (1785) Mr. Jefferson had gone to France as minister, and those who shared his views thought that the favorable moment had not arrived for such a measure, and the clause was stricken froin
It thus appears that as the colonies grew slavery grew with them, without check or hinderance, till the agitation broke out