Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America

By Dwight Lowell Dumond | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
SLAVERY AND POLITICAL POWER
Year by year, slavery in the United States became more sinister. It contaminated the body politic. It exerted an evil influence in all institutional life. It was inherently aggressive. It was a veritable colossus of greed and arbitrary power by 1793. The steps by which it had reached its exalted position are very clear:
1. The denial of emancipation by conversion to Christianity had shifted the basis of slavery from heathenism to race. The consequences were frightful. It unloosed on Africa for generations a terror unequaled in human history -- a terror that did not cease until 100 million human beings perished. It introduced race prejudice into America. Race prejudice was hostile to democratic institutions, and it was a hundred times more difficult to destroy than was slavery. It caused the churches of the lower South to become bulwarks of slavery.
2. The consignment to slavery of every child born of a slave mother made slavery perpetual and ever-increasing in volume. One's pen falters in any attempt to describe adequately its crushing impact upon motherhood, family relationships, and the awakening spirit of youth. It exposed every female slave to abuse by members of the white race and consigned tens of thousands of the children of white men to slavery. Miscegenation and separation of families were among its evil consequences.
3. The gift to men, in a nation dedicated to political democracy, of extra political power as a reward for owning slaves, with power increasing in direct proportion to the number they owned, created an almost unbelievably rotten political system that perpetuated slavery, lived on after slavery was abolished, and exists today in a nation which claims to be a classic land of liberalism.
4. The gift of complete freedom of action to all states for twenty years, to import slaves from Africa in order to buy their support for a new Constitution was a public admission of national weakness of great magnitude. It sacrificed the national interest to sectional greed. It gave to the proslavery extremists an undue sense of power and readiness to make further extreme demands.
5. The public confession by Congress that it had no power over slavery in the states was not binding upon future congresses, but it influenced the determination of public policy for a long time. As a constitutional interpretation it was neither in accord with all the facts nor worthy of men engaged in implementing the fundamental law.
6. The grant of power to slaveholders to roam the country seizing Negroes to carry home as alleged fugitives was an open invitation to kidnapping. There was precious little difference between the pursuit of fleeing men in Africa and in the United States -- none whatever between the fox hunt and the slave hunt, and none between the enslavement of a free person in Africa and in a free state of the United States.
7. The admission of Kentucky as a slave state was both a betrayal and a precedent. If there ever had been an intention to admit any more slave states into the Union, it was not made clear to the opponents of slavery in the Convention and was not so understood by the ratifying conventions of states then in process of emancipation. Ad

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