« PreviousContinue »
or the States to establish it; that no man now is rightfully or legally held in bondage in this country; that the whole system is unconstitutional; and that it is in violation of its spirit and letter, and ought not to be upheld.
But, knowing such weighty authorities are at present opposed to us, we have had to be rather labored, and to extend our remarks and proofs to a greater length than might be desirable; but, as we have endeavored to give a connected history of the proceedings of various public bodies in relation to the question at issue, and have done it with all the impartiality of which we are capable, we hope our exertions will not prove unavailing to throw light upon a subject which now seems to be involved in much darkness and uncertainty, if we can judge from the contrariety of opinions we have heard both publicly and privately expressed. We are aware, also, we take a dif ferent stand from many distinguished abolitionists on this question, and that a good deal of sensitiveness has been manifested towards us on account of it; but, as the facts and arguments adduced in this work have fully satisfied ourself on this subject, it is hoped they may not fail to convince, others, and that it will be finally admitted that not only the States, but the United States, and the various.
courts of the land, all have authority over the subject, when the question arises in their several jurisdictions. We have considered the distinctive character of our government arises from the fact a man cannot be subjected to arbitrary authority in this country; and from this alone it deserves the appellation "free." We take it for granted, it cannot be supposed that individuals under a government have a greater authority over other individuals under the same government than the government itself.
But, while we have, as we think, most clearly demonstrated these as truths, and that every individual person is by the Constitution allowed his inalienable rights, and the free exercise of them, we should also hold, even if the Southern States were foreign nations, and we had no connection or interest with them, it would be our duty, and the duty of every other man, to lift up his voice against the oppression that is there exercised, on the same grounds that we should enter a stranger's house from which proceeded the cry of help and murder. Is there one of us, in the Northern States, who should see one man beating another in the street, would not endeavor to know the cause of the assault, and, if in our power, prevent its continuance; or, if we should see one
flying from an infuriated man, should we not endeavor to render succor and assistance to him who is fleeing? And when we see and know that thousands and tens of thousands of our colored brethren have already fled, and are continually fleeing, for succor and for aid to shield them from the iron yoke imposed upon them in the Southern States of this Union, and when we know their cry is constantly ascending for assistance, can we, ought we, to fold our arms in indifference? him who has never wanted, and never expects to want, the sympathies and aid of his fellow-men answer in the affirmative, and act accordingly. Knowing, however, our own weakness and our own wants, we must act in a different manner.
But we affirm, according to our present arrangement, the Southern States can in no light be considered as foreign nations to us: our destiny is bound up with theirs, and we cannot hope to escape unless we dissolve our present connection. Are we liable every moment to be called upon to shoulder our muskets, to defend the South from any danger that may arise either from external foes, or internal insurrections, without having any interest to prevent, if possible, our being thus called upon? Has a foreign nation the same right to call upon us for such a purpose? We cannot
suppose any one will answer in the affirmative; neither could we have believed, had it not been done by so many individuals, that a single person could have been found, that would have admitted it possible any one could, in this country, be driven about hither and thither, whether as soldiers or as slaves, without being able to ask the reason why, or without having the right, in any way or in any manner, of preventing such being the case. We think our fathers have not left us such a legacy; on the contrary, they not only took better care of their own rights, but took better care of the rights of their posterity; and it is the purpose of the following pages to show how and in what manner they have done it.
If we are successful in convincing this nation, or rendering any help to convince it, that there is and can be no legal slavery in this country under our present Constitution, as we ourself are convinced there can be none, we shall thank God and take courage. We therefore humbly dedicate this book to the people of the United States; and, although it has been written in hours snatched from business and relaxation, and its literary merits may be objectionable, we hope the ideas will be pondered and considered, and that we shall not rush blindfolded into slavery to our own
destruction, and to the destruction of the hopes of the great and good who have desired the liberty and happiness of mankind.
We would however observe, that in any thing we may say in the following pages, we hope no one will suppose that we would not be as careful of State rights as the most jealous person, whether in or out of the abolition, ranks; but we have no sympathy with those who are so sensitive with regard to them on some points, and yet pay no sort of regard to them when certain other points are under consideration.
We will take this opportunity to thank Mr. Coffin, and Mr. Snelling, of the State Library, their politeness in allowing us the examination of such books under their charge as we wished.
G. W. F. MELLEN.