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crats, as they most undeservedly call themselves, who have eagerly seized this opportunity to wound, as they imagine, my feelings, and to aid the cause to which they are altached. In other quarters of the Union, Democrats claim to be the exclusive champions of Southern interests, the only safe defenders of the rights in slave property, and unjustly accuse us Whigs with abolition designs wholly incompatible with its security. What ought those distant Democrats to think of the course of their friends here who have united in this petition ?
And what is the foundation of this appeal to me in Indiana to liberate the slaves under my care in Kentucky? It is a general declaration in the act announcing to the world the independence of the thirteen American Colonies, that all men are created equal. Now, as an abstract principle, there is no doubt of the truth of that declaration ;and it is desirable, in the original construction of society, and in organized societies, to keep it in view as a great fundamental principle. But, then, I apprehend that in no society that ever did exist, or ever shall be formed, was or can the equality asserted among the members of the human race, be practically enforced and carried out. There are portions of it, large portions, women, minors, insane, culprits, transient sojourners, that will always probably remain subject to the government of another portion of the community.
That declaration, whatever may be the extent of its import, wis made by the delegations of the thirteen States. In most of them slavery existed, and had long existed, and was established by law. It was introduced and forced upon the Colonies by the paramount law of England. Do you believe that, in making that declaration, the States that concurred in it intended that it should be tortured into a virtual emancipation of all the slaves within their respective limits ? Would Virginia and the other Southern States have ever united in a declaration which was to be interpreted into an abolition of slavery among them? Did any one of the thirteen States entertain such a design or expectation ? To impute such a secret and unavowed purpose would be to charge a political fraud upon the noblest band of patriots that ever assembled in council—a fraud upon the confederacy of the Revolution—a fraud upon the Union of those States, whose constitution not only recognized the lawfulness of slavery, but permitted the importation of slaves from Africa until the
year 1808. And I am bold to say that, if the doctrines of ultra political abolitionists had been seriously promulgated at the epoch of our Revolution, our glorious Independence would never have been achieved-never, never.
I know the predominant sentiment in the Free States is adverse to slavery ; but, happy in their own exemption from whatever evils may attend it, the great mass of our fellow citizens there do not seek to violate the Constitution or to disturb the harmony of these States. I desire no .concealment of my opinions in regard to the institution of slavery. I look upon it as a great evil, and deeply lament that we have derived it from the parental Government, and from our ancestors. I wish every slave in the United States was in the country of his ancestors. But here they are, and the question is how they can be best dealt with? If a state of nature existed, and we were about to lay the foundations of society, no man would be more strongly opposed than I should be to incorporate the institution of slavery among its elements. But there is an incalculable difference between the original formation of society and a long existing organized society, with its ancient laws, institutions, and establishments. Now, great as I acknowledge, in my opinion, the evils of slavery are, they are nothing, absolutely nothing in comparison with the far greater evils which would inevitably flow from a sudden, general, and indiscriminate emancipation. In some of the States the number of slaves approximates towards an equality with that of the whites; in one or two they surpass them. What would be the condition of the two races in those States upon the supposition of an immediate emancipation? Does any man suppose that they would become blended into one homogeneous mass ? Does any man recommend amalgamation—that revolting admixture, alike offensive to God and man; for those whom He, by their physical properties, has made unlike and put asunder, we may, without presumptuousness, suppose were never intended to be joined together in one of the holiest rites. And let me tell you, sir, if you do not already know it, that such are the feelings--prejudice, if you please, (and what man claiming to be a statesman will overlook or disregard the deep-seated and unconquerable prejudices of the People in the slave States that no human law would enforce a union between the two races.
What then would certainly happen? A struggle for political as
cendency; the blacks seeking to acquire, and the whites to maintain possession of the Government. Upon the supposition of a general immediate emancipation in those States where the blacks outnumber the whites, they would have nothing to do but to insist upon another part of the same Declaration of Independence, as Dorr and his deluded democratic followers recently did in Rhode Island ; according to which an undefined majority have the right, at their pleasure, to subvert an existing Government and institute a new one in its place, and then the whites would be brought in complete subjection to the blacks! A contest would inevitably ensue between the two racescivil war, carnage, pillage, conflagration, devastation, and the ultimate extermination or expulsion of the blacks. Nothing is more certain. And are not these evils far greater than the mild and continually improving state of slavery which exists in this country? I say continually improving ; for if this gratifying progress in the amelioration of the condition of the slaves has been checked in some of the States, the responsibility must attach to the unfortunate agitation of the subject of abolition. In consequence of it, increased rigor in the police and further restraints have been imposed; and I do believe that gradual emancipation (the only method of liberation that has ever been thought safe or wise by any body in any of the slave States) has been postponed half a century.
Without any knowledge of the relation in which I stand to my slaves, or their individual condition, you, Mr. Mendenhall, and your associates, who have been active in getting up this petition, call upon me forth with to liberate the whole of them. Now let me tell you that some half a dozen of them, from age, decreptitude, or infirmity, are wholly unable to gain a livelihood for themselves, and are a heavy charge upon me. Do you think that I should conform to the dictates of humanity by ridding myself of that charge, and sending them forth into the world, with the boon of liberty, to end a wretched existence in starvation? Another class is composed of helpless infants, with or without improvident mothers. Do you believe, as a Christian, that I should perform my duty towards them by abandoning them to their fate? Then there is another class who would not accept their freedom if I would give it to them. I have for many years owned a slave that I wished would leave me, but he will not. What shall I do with that class. ?
What my treatment of my slaves is you may learn from Charles, who accompanies me on this journey, and who has travelled with me over the greater part of the United States, and in both the Canadas, and has had a thousand opportunities, if he had chosen to embrace them, to leave me. Excuse me, Mr. Mendenhall, for saying that my slaves are as well fed and clad, look as sleek and hearty, and are quite as civil and respectful in their demeanor, and as little disposed to wound the feelings of any one, as you are.
Let me recommend you, sir, to imitate the benevolent example of the Society of Friends, in the midst of which you reside. Meek, gentle, imbued with the genuine spirit of our benign religion, while in principle they are firmly opposed to slavery, they do not seek to accomplish its extinction by foul epithets, coarse and vulgar abuse, and gross calumny. Their ways do not lead through blood, revolution and disunion. Their broad and comprehensive philanthropy embraces, as they believe, the good and the happiness of the white as well as the black race; giving to the one their commiseration, to the other their kindest sympathy. Their instruments are not those of detraction and of war, but of peace, persuasion and earnest appeals to the charities of the human heart. Unambitious, they have no political objects or purposes to subserve. My intercourse with them throughout life has been considerable, interesting, and agreeable; and I venture to say nothing could have induced them as a society, . whatever a few individuals might have been tempted to do, to seize the occasion of my casual passage through this State to offer me a personal indignity
I respect the motives of rational abolitionists, who are actuated by a sentiment of devotion to human liberty, although I deplore and deprecate the consequences of the agitation of the question. I have even many friends among them. But they are not monomaniacs, who, surrendering themselves to a single idea, look altogether to the black side of human life. They do not believe that the sum total of all our efforts and all our solicitude should be abolition. They believe that there are duties to perform towards the white man as well as the black. They want good government, good administration, and the general prosperity of their country.
I shall, Mr. Mendenhall, take your petition into respectful and
deliberate consideration ; but before I come to a final decision, I should like to know what you and your associates are willing to do for the slaves in my possession ; if I should think proper to liberate them. I own about fifty, who are probably worth fifteen thousand dollars. To turn them loose upon society without any means of subsistence or support would be an act of cruelly. Are you willing to raise and secure the payment of fifteen thousand dollars for their benefit, if I should be induced to free them ? The security of the payment of that sum would materially lessen the obstacle in the way of their emancipation.
And now Mr. Mendenhall, I must take respectful leave of you. We separate, as we have met, with no unkind feelings, no excited anger or dissatisfaction on my part, whatever may have been your motives, and these I refer to our common Judge above, to whom we are both responsible. Go home, and mind your own business, and leave other people to take care of theirs. Limit your benevolent exertions to your own neighborhood. Within that circle you will find ample scope for the exercise of all your charities. Dry up the tears of the afflicted widows around you, console and comfort the helpless orphan, clothe the naked, and feed and help the poor, black and white, who need succor. And you will be a better and wiser man than you have this day shown yourself.