Puslapio vaizdai

slavery either by unjust taunts from abroad, or the desire of favor at home. No one defends it, no one approves it. But if these remarks of the English writers are intended to convey a reproach, that reproach is, that we tolerate a slavery, of which we could rid ourselves if we would. And if they lay claim to the character of candid men, if they wish to be thought competent and fair judges of hard questions of political economy, we would ask them by any effort of imagination or any device of wisdom, to contrive a reasonable, practicable plan of eradicating negro slavery from this country, or any country where it exists. If they can devise no such plan, and the evil is without_remedy, then we would ask the candid Censor morum in England, who may wish to pass judgment on us for this, to reflect a moment how and when this evil came upon us, and on the comparative merits of the British and American governments in regard to slavery in this country. This is one point; another is the actual state of England in regard to slavery. We are bid to make no fine speeches about slavery, while a slave contaminates our soil.' Truly : whose soil then is Jamaica, and whose is Tobago, and whose is Barbadoes, and whose are all the isles ? But they are distant colonies, you reply, they touch not England; not so much as by an isthmus. But are they not English soil, owned by English proprietors, governed by English laws, cultivated on English account ; and do not the sugar, and the rum, go straight to London, and furnish the wherewithal for English luxury? We should be glad to see, if slavery is stamped deeper and blacker on a bale of cotton or a hogshead of tobacco, than on a puncheon of rum or a box of sugar; and if providence should enter into judgment with the civilized world for this offence, we would fain

know whether Bristol and Liverpool would be last visited ; and if assiento would be the word, which would stand lowest on the accusing angel's book.

Besides, we beg leave to inquire of those who read us our condemnation on this score, whether the law of slavery in England, even as it respects England herself, is such as to furnish great cause for exultation. So late as 5 Will. and Mar. it was held in the English court of Common Pleas, that a man might have a property in a negro boy, and might bring an action of trover for him, because negroes are heathens.* Nor

* 1 Ld. Raymond, 147. In 1 Blackstone, 425. Wait's ed.

does the matter stand much more fairly, in the famous case of the negro Somerset, which is considered as having settled the law of England on slavery. This case is briefly reported in the eleventh volume of the State Trials with Mr Hargrave's argument in full, and given in Loft's Reports with the judgment of the court. James Somerset had been made a slave in Africa and was sold there. He was carried from Africa to Virginia, where he was bought by Charles Steuart, esq. and by him brought to England. Here he ran away from his master, who however recovered him, and confined him in irons on board a vessel, to be sent to Jamaica and sold as a slave. While he was thus confined, Lord Mansfield granted a habeas corpus, ordering the captain of the ship to bring up the body of James Somerset, with the cause of his detainer. The above mentioned circumstances were stated on the return of the writ, and after much learned discussion in the court of King's Bench, the court were unanimously of opinion that the return was insufficient, and that Somerset ought to be discharged. Lord Mansfield, however, gave his judgment discharging Somerset, with the greatest hesitation and reluctance, alleging great inconvenience on both sides of the question, and stating distinctly that a contract for sale of a slave is good in England: the sale is a matter, to which the law readily and properly attaches and will maintain the price, according to the agreement. But here the person of the slave himself immediately is the object of inquiry; which makes a very material difference. The present question is, whether any dominion, authority, or coercion can be exercised in this country on a slave according to the American laws, (that is, the British Colonial Laws.] The difficulty of adopting the relation, without adopting it in all its consequences, is indeed extreme, and yet many of those consequences are absolutely contrary to the municipal law of England.'

For aught that appears to the contrary, Lord Mansfield here teaches, that it is the illegal acts of coercion and dominion over the slave, which were contrary to the English municipal law; and had Mr Steuart, instead of pursuing and confining his slave himself, appealed to the magistrate to protect him in the enjoyment of the fruits of the legal contract, by which he had purchased the slave, the magistrate would have protected him. In consequence of the inconvenience and embarrassment of the case, the parties were advised by Lord Mansfield, to compromise the matter; and the cause was ordered to stand over for this purpose. But a decision being demanded, it was delivered at the next term, by Lord Mansfield, in the same hesitating style, in which the remarks just quoted are made. He first observes, that the court pay all due attention to the opinion of Sir P. Yorke and lord chief justice Talbot, whereby they pledged themselves to the British planters for all the legal consequences of slaves coming over to this kingdom or being baptized ; recognised by Lord Hardwicke, sitting as chancellor Oct. 19, 1749, that trover would lie : that a notion prevailed that if a negro came over or became a christian, he was emancipated, but there is no ground in law for this notion : that he and lord Talbot, when attorney and solicitor general, were of opinion that no such claim for freedom was valid, &c. He finally rests his judgment on the want of an express English statute, and in the following terms : "So high an act of dominion must be recognized, by the law of the country where it is used. The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons moral or political, but only positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself, from whence it was created, is erased from memory, &c.'

This is very well; but if we take it or trust from Lord Mansfield, that the English law would still enforce a contract of sale of a slave, and if we consider that a slave who should sue out his liberty and obtain it, would still have no allowance for past services ;* if we remember that the abolition of the trade certainly was carried in the English parliament, by a different process from that of acclamation, and above all that perhaps as many slaves are at this moment held in bondage by the arm of the English power, as by that of any other nation; we think it somewhat indiscreet in Englishmen to speak of our soil as contaminated by slavery, or to make any fine speeches about universal emancipation. When it is said, that

the air of England is too pure for a slave,' it means merely that tobacco and cotton, sugar and coffee, will not grow in Norfolk; not that when an island where they will grow falls

** In 3 Espinasse N. P. Reports, p. 3, is the case of Alfred vs. the Marquis of Fitz-James, assumpsit for servant's wages. Plaintiff proved the time he had served, and relied on a quantum meruit. Lor Kenyon determined that unless there was an agreement for wages during the time of his service in England, the negro could recover none.' Cooper's Institutes, 478 n,


into British possession, there is any scruple felt in resorting to the labor of slaves.

But we are anxious to close our article, which we do not send to the press without some reluctance. A reperusal of the observations, to which we have been replying, has furnished us with no reason to think, that they had any other object than that of surprising assent, by a few candid remarks, to many sneering and some calumnious ones. Of all modes of warfare conducted by that potent instrument, the pen, we are constrained to look upon the practice of masking a tissue of unfriendly, sneering, and injurious reflections, by a few general compliments, as one of the least ingenuous; and are sorry to see it thought so clever, by our brethren abroad. The present writer accuses us of an inordinate appetite for praise ; but we think it must be an appetite ravening indeed, which can swallow praise, with such poisonous condiments as this :

Should these and the preceding observations chance to fall under the eye of an American, he may perhaps imagine, that we too have been indulging in offensive animadversions upon his nation ; but we sincerely assure him, that we have no intention to offend. We think that America is doing wonders, and we most heartily congratulate her. We cannot for an instant doubt that the formation of a great empire, resembling in its best points the best times of Great Britain, must prove an auspicious era in the history of the human race. A community provided with ample resources against an endless increase of members, and enjoying a free bar, a free

senate, and a free press, if true to herself, must do great things. But America is yet in her infancy; and must not, like a froward child, born to a great estate and the dupe of domestic adulation, immaturely assume the tone and pretensions of a riper period; she must be docile and industrious, and patient of rebuke that conveys instruction. She must not talk too much of glory, till it comes. She must not make fine speeches about freedom, while a slave contaminates her soil. She must not rail at English travellers, for visiting her cities and plantations, and publishing what they see. She must not be angry with lord Grey, for calling Mr Fearon “ a gentleman," and she positively must not be fretting herself into the preposterous notion, that there exists in this country an organized conspiracy against her literary fame. There is no such thing.'

While we copy these remarks, we perceive in the quarter whence they proceed, an · American Eclogue;' a performance of which the justice is quite equal to the spirit; and · Jonathan

Kentucky's Journal is announced in another number. This satisfies us wholly, and shows that the warfare is not one for us to engage in, nor the weapons proper for our hands. • We sincerely assure the authors of these judicious performances, that whatever they intend,' we shall take no offence.

&, Errett Art. III.-A Statistical, 'Political, and Historical account of

the United States of North America ; from the period of their first colonization to the present day. By D. B. Warden, late Consul for the United States at Paris, &c. &c. 3 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh, 1819. The title of this book ought to serve it as a letter of introduction to us. It promises to tell us more about our country, than was ever before brought together in any one work, and it may be inferred from the time it has remained unnoticed, that we either do not care to know these things, or do not choose to learn them from Mr Warden. We have had a vast deal to read about ourselves within a few years, it is true, and we have not been neglectful of such writers as made their accounts of us pleasant and piquant, by a good seasoning of abuse; and we doubt not, if our author had told as many amusing stories of us as Ashe and Janson, that he would have received the same flattering attentions we showed to them. But we do not appear to take much interest in sober historical relation, and matter of fact information. This arises perhaps from knowing so much about our past and present condition, as we must necessarily know from the very nature of our political institutions, and from the frequent exercise of our civil rights. The principal facts of our history are early and easily learned; our origin is involved in no obscurity and uncertainty ; the story of the first hundred and fifty years of our national existence is told in a few pages, and we have either been actors in the events of the last half century, or received our accounts of them from those who were. Besides, we have opportunities for learning our history, in a great degree, peculiar to ourselves; the birth day of our political independence is made to tell its own story, and while we remember and duly commemmorate that day and the deeds which grew out of it, we ought to be excused though we be ignorant of much else,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »