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By American Slavery is meant the condition of those Americans who are claimed, held and treated, in these United States, as property.
A slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs. The master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry, and his labor; he can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire any thing, but what must belong to his master.-Louisiana Code.
The same code, speaking of the legal nature of slave property, says :
Slaves, though movable by their nature, are considered immovable by the operation of law.
"Goods they are," says the civil code, "and goods they shall be esteemed."-Taylor's Elements, p. 429.
Slaves shall be deemed, sold, taken, and reputed to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, their executors, administrators, and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever.Laws of South Carolina, Stroud, p. 22-3.
This dominion of the master is as unlimited as that which is tolerated by the laws of any civilized community in relation to brute animals-to 'quadrupeds,' to use the words of the civil law.-Stroud, p. 24.
In case the personal property of a ward shall consist of specific articles, such as slaves, working beasts, animals of any kind, stock, furniture, plate, books, and so forth, the Court, if it shall deem it advantageous for the ward, may, at any time, pass an order for the sale thereof.Laws of Maryland, 1798.
Slaves shall always be reputed and considered real estate; shall be, as such, subject to be mortgaged, according to the rules prescribed by law, and they shall be seized and sold as real estate.-Laws of Louisiana, 1806.
Hence it appears, that the distinguishing principle of American Slavery is this: slaves are not to be ranked among rational beings, but they are to be CLAIMED, HELD, and TREATED as things, as articles of property, "to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever."
Consequently it does not allow to the slave the rights of his own reason and conscience.
It annihilates the family state: prevents the parents from obeying the command of God with regard to their children; it prohibits, or nullifies, the marriage rites, and prevents husbands and wives from obeying the commands of God with regard to each other.
It enjoins, or sanctions, promiscuous intercourse between the sexes, without the rites of marriage.
It holds all the religious privileges of the slave at the mere mercy of his master, whether that master be infidel, papist, or protestant.
It prevents the slave from obeying that command of God, which makes it the duty of all men to "search the Scriptures."
Its direct tendency is to crush the minds of God's intelligent creatures, by forbidding and preventing all schools for "mental instruction."
It withholds the hire of the laborer.
It sanctions and covers the breach of the 8th commandment. It justifies the very same thing which our laws and the laws of nations punish as piracy, if committed on the coast of Africa, or on the high seas. It originates and justifies what the Bible calls "manstealing."
It denies to the slave that protection for his character, his health and life, which is enjoyed by the white man.
Here it must be observed, that what we have stated above, forms no part of what is generally called the "evils of slavery," or, in other words, the "abuses of the system;" but the above facts make up the very system itself, the very thing which we say is a sin against God.
WHO MAY BE HELD AS SLAVES. A law of South Carolina reads as follows:
All negroes, Indians, (free Indians in amity with this government, and negroes, mulattoes, and mestizos, who are now free, excepted,) mulattoes, or mestizos, who are now or shall hereafter be in this province, and all their issue and offspring born, or to be born, shall be, and they are hereby declared to be and remain forever hereafter, absolute slaves, and shall follow the condition of the mother. Act of 1740, 2 Brevard's Digest, 229.
Similar laws are now in force in Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, and Louisiana. In Virginia the enslavement of Indians was authorized by statute from 1679 to 1691. Those whose maternal ancestors
have been reduced to slavery since the latter period, have been decided by the highest courts in that state to be free. So late as 1797, it was decided by the Supreme Court of New-Jersey, Chief Justice Kinsey, that Indians might be held as slaves.
They (Indians) have been so long recognized as slaves, in our law, that it would be as great a violation of the rights of property to establish a contrary doctrine at the present day, as it would in the case of the Africans; and as useless to investigate the manner in which they ORIGINALLY lost their freedom. The State vs. Waggoner, 1 Halstead's Reports, 374 to 376.
Persons emancipated, but not in the prescribed form of law, are liable to be re-enslaved, thus in South Carolina,
In case any slave shall be emancipated or set free, otherwise than according to the act (of 1800) regulating emancipation, it shall be lawful for any person whosoever to seize and convert to his or her own use, and to keep as his or her property the said slave so illegally emancipated or set free. 2 Brevard's Digest, 256.
And in Virginia, "If any emancipated slave (infants excepted) shall remain within the state more than twelve months after his or her right to freedom shall have accrued, he or she shall forfeit all such right, and may be apprehended and sold by the overseers of the poor, &c., for the benefit of THE LITERARY FUND!! 1 Rev. Code, 436.
Hence it will be perceived, that slavery has no limits. It lays its bloody hands not only on native Americans of African descent, and their children, forever, but on Indians. "Nor is it confined to color," says Mr. Paxton of Virginia. "The best blood in Virginia flows in the veins of the slaves.” Many who are now held in slavery, in this nation, are as white as the masters by whom they are oppressed.