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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1841,
BY G. W. F. MELLEN, in the clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
IN presenting the public with the present volume, we are aware it involves some presumption, as we are not connected with the learned profession of the law; but none, either abler or otherwise, having undertaken the task, we have ventured to raise our sail, and, with what skill and favorable winds we could command, have endeavored to steer our bark into the desired haven. We are aware that Mr. Alvan Stewart, of New York, with his great mind, has preceded us in the discussion of the constitutional question of the rights of slaveholders; but he did not touch the point which we thought lay at the foundation of this most interesting question; we have therefore considered it in a somewhat different aspect. While he supposed, because the States had not by their laws established slavery, therefore it did not exist, we, on the contrary, would affirm, that, according to our Constitution, it is impossible either for congress
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 different 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? Let 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