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At the first congress, petitions on the subject were brought forward. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society presented a memorial, praying congress to promote the abolition by such means as it possessed. This memorial was referred in the house to a select committee, consisting of Foster of New Hampshire, Gerry of Massachusetts, Huntington of Connecticut, Lawrence of New York, Sinnickson of New Jersey, Hartley of Pennsylvania, and Parker of Virginia—all from the free States but the last. This committee made a report, which was considered and discussed on several days by a committee of the whole house. Being amended, though without material alteration, it was made to express three distinct propositions, on the subject of slavery and the slave trade. First, in the words of the constitution, that congress could not, prior to 1808, prohibit the migration or importation of such persons as any of the States then existing, should think proper to admit. Second, that congress bad authority to restrain the citizens of the United States from carrying on the African slave-trade, for the purpose of supplying foreign countries. On this proposition, the early laws against those who continue in the traffic are founded. Thirdly, that congress have no authority to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them in any of the States; it remaining with the several States alone to provide rules and regulations therein, which humanity and true policy may require. These resolutions received the sanction of the house, in March, 1790. It is important to observe that not only were the select committee, who reported the resolution, northern men, with a single exception, but nearly two thirds of the members of the house were northern men also. The house agreed to insert these resolutions on their journal.
From the provisions of the constitution just recited, from the decisions of the supreme court, and from the action of congress, the following inferences may be legitimately deduced.
1. No inconsiderable portion of the guilt of the introduction of slavery into this country is resting on Great Britain. An impartial reader of the colonial history will be fully convinced of this. Virginia and other States remonstrated repeatedly and most earnestly to the parent government, but the remonstrances in every instance were thrown back, sometimes with studied reproach.
2. Slavery has been always considered as a subject for the consideration and action of the individual States concerned. This is the uniform testimony of the proceedings of the old congress, of the articles of confederation, of the acts of congress under the confederation, of the convention which formed the constitution, of the measures of congress under the constitution, and of the decisions of the supreme court of the United States. While subject to Great Britain, no attempt was made by one State to interfere in the slave policy of another State.
3. Slavery is recognized tacitly but distinctly in the constitution. However much we may wish that this excellent frame of government were divested of the obnoxious articles, there is now no remedy, except by modification or a new constitution. We must take the instrument as it is. It is a constitution for the whole country, and for each of the States. All are sworn to fulfil the conditions which they have voluntarily assumed.
4. Slaves are recognized as persons by the constitution. Three-fifths of them are in some sort represented in the government of the country.
5. They are also regarded simply as property. Twofifths are not even nominally represented. Their personal liberty is taken away by the provision which compels a State to deliver up a fugitive slave to his owner.
6. No measures can be lawfully taken by the citizens of the free States, which shall tend to promote disturbance and insurrection among the slaves. We are parties to a solemn covenant, and we must abide by it. The legal right of the master to the slave is entire. The people of the free States have no authority to adopt measures which shall even indirectly tend to political disunion and servile war.
7. We are justifiable, notwithstanding, in using all lawful methods to accomplish the abolition of slavery. Because we have no legal right to interfere, it does not follow that we have no moral right to use argument and earnest expostulation. We have moral obligations to discharge, when the enactments of the books are against us. As fellow countrymen and as fellow men, we are authoritatively charged by conscience, and self-interest, and love of country, to testify our sentiments in regard to slavery. A legal right cannot of course seal up the lips of a man. A nuisance in the north, though sanctioned by law, is the proper object of animadver
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sion at the south. We desire that our Southern brethren would address us in tones of utmost severity respecting any abuse or legalized crime of which they know us to be guilty. We claim the same rights in respect to evils which exist among them. There are duties to which the constitution does not allude-high moral and religious duties, which no man can foreclose or nullify. They are to be discharged prudently, but nevertheless, firmly, and unshrinkingly. We are to consult, indeed, the proprieties of time and place, but in no circumstances to compromit duty, or give up fundamental principles. It is perfectly manifest that the framers of the constitution viewed the matter in this light. They were compelled by stern necessity to admit slavery into the constitution. They believed that a constitution could not be formed without it. The tedious circumlocutions which they adopted to avoid mentioning the word slave, in the constitution, is a true index of their feelings and opinions. We are not to overlook this point when we undertake to interpret it. The views and intentions of its framers are always to be taken into the account. Most of the sage men who formed the instrument, were totally opposed to slavery on principle. Governor Randolph, of Virginia, considered that the provisions of the constitution might have a remote tendency to abolition. The sentiments of Dr. Franklin are well known. John Jay, not, indeed, a member of the Federal Convention, but one of the strongest advocates of the constitution, was president of a Manumission Society. While, therefore, we proceed prudently, constitutionally, and in a Christian spirit, we are never to lose sight of the intrinsic and enormous evils of the slave system. We are never to relax our efforts until those evils are extirpated from the earth. The subject, in all its aspects and relations, is one of overwhelming importance. The evils are so great, of so long standing, they touch upon so many interests, they are incorporated with so much feeling and prejudice, and they increase so rapidly, that neither the wisdom of all our statesmen, the learning of all our scholars, nor the benevolence of all our philanthropists, are sufficient of themselves to remove or essentially to mitigate them. We must rely on Him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.
We shall examine at length, in future numbers, the questions connected with abolition and African colonization.
PRESENT ATTITUDE OF MOHAMMEDANISM, IN REF
ERENCE TO THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL.
By Eli Smith.
NISM has its biter of this was a haughty
Its lave unbelie les prill, larger
MOHAMMEDANISM has its principal seat in Turkey, where it has been the lot of the writer of this article to labor and journey. Heretofore it has raised there a haughty front against the religion of Jesus. Its laws have ever imposed tribute or the forfeiture of life upon unbelievers, and denounced inevitable death upon apostates. Its professors have long held at the disposal of their arbitrary will, large bodies of subjugated Christians; they once triumphed over the chivalry of Europe; and their sovereigns have for centuries sat upon the subverted throne of the Cæsars. Its doctrines and its history, in a word, have long placed Mohammedanism in a high attitude of contempt towards the gospel, and of opposition to the spread of it, both among its disciples, and among nominal Christians subject to them.
Let us dwell a moment upon this past attitude of Mohammedanism, before we speak of that which it is now assuming.
In reference to the propagation of Christianity among Mohammedans, its opposition has held the form of law-of law strictly executed. In Egypt even, where some of the institutions of Europe have been for several years professedly imitated, when the writer first arrived there, an instance of its execution occurred. A Mohammedan woman was discovered to have connected herself with the Greek church; a proof of her new faith was found in a cross stamped indelibly upon her arm; she was seized, carried to the Nile, and sunk in its waters. It has, in fact, long been the boast of the semi-independent inhabitants of Lebanon, that their mountain is the only spot in Turkey, where a Mohammedan can with impunity renounce his religion.
The law, or at least the execution of law, went farther than to punish Moslems who apostatized; it punished Christians who dared defame Mohammed. When at Alexandria, the writer was informed of a poor Christian, who had been insti
gated by some sudden provocation in the bazar, to curse Mohammed. He was instantly seized, and it was only by embracing Mohammedanism, that he saved his life. No Christians in Turkey dare, in the presence of Mohammedans, curse the false prophet. They would be glad to do it, such is their hatred of his followers; and they are ready to mention it as one of their grievances, that they are denied the privilege.Missionaries wish not to curse Mohammed. They wish, by sober and convincing argument, to prove that he is a false prophet. But the two stand, in the estimation of Mohammedans, not far asunder. Missionaries have been formerly told, that by openly arguing against Mohammedanism, they would so trample upon the laws of the land, as to forfeit their European protection, and expose themselves without refuge, to Moslem vengeance. They have never, it is believed, found it true. But any direct attempt to proselyte Mohammedans to Christianity, has ever been regarded as a high offence. A German missionary, under the protection of the Russian army during its late invasion of Turkey, undertook to reason with the Turks, in the bazars and streets of Erzroom, against Mohammedanism, and in favor of Christianity. Only a few days elapsed, before the kady and the mufty informed the general, that, such was the popular displeasure at the missionary, they could not hold themselves responsible for his life.
In reference to the spread of the gospel among the nominal Christians of Turkey, the opposition of Mohammedanism has held, not so much the form of established law, as of arbitrary oppression. When a Christian had paid his capitation and other taxes, the Moslem government professed to regard with indifference the particular religious dogmas he might adopt, or the ecclesiastical connection in which he might place himself. From considerations of state convenience, it held indeed the ecclesiastical head of every sect, responsible in some respects for all in his communion; and of course was ready to aid, by the civil power, in supporting his authority. Still it remained for such dignitaries themselves to move the first complaint against measures leading to dissent or reformation. If they remained quiet, foreign missionaries might put the Bible in every Christian's house, and, with aid from above, implant the seeds of grace in every Christian's heart in Turkey; and find no Mohammedan law crossing their movements. And at the worst, the law could not touch their life, or their liberty.