Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 27.djvu/84
76 Southern Historical Society Papers.
VIRGINIA DID NOT FIGHT TO MAINTAIN SLAVERY.
There is, however, one popular misconception to which I would direct your attention. While the institution of slavery and the rise of the abolition party were uudoubtedly among the causes which precipitated the war, yet the statement is false either that Virginia seceded in order to maintain the institution of slavery, or that the authorities of the Federal Government inaugurated the war to eman- cipate the slaves.
What had been Virginia's position with reference to this institu- tion, and what historically speaking, was the cause for which the Federal Government drew its sword ?
Slavery was introduced into Virginia in 1619 a period of the world's history when the slave trade and the ownership of slaves was everywhere legalized by law. Between the date of the introduction of the first slave in 1619 and 1776, when Virginia declared her inde- pendence of Great Britain, petition after petition was addressed by her people and her Assembly, imploring the British crown to inter- dict the importation of slaves. Not only were petitions presented, but between the dates mentioned numerous Acts of Assembly were passed, the object and purpose of which was to stop the traffic. All of these acts were vetoed by the King, and, despite the declared opposition of the colonists, for over a century and a half the traffic continued, with each importation adding more and more to the diffi- culties and dangers of emancipation.
AGAINST HUMAN NATURE.
When her great son, Mr. Jefferson, came to pen the Declaration of Independence, and to arraign the King for his veto of these en- actments, he declared that George III " has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty, in the persons of distant people who never offended him, captivat- ing them and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere."
- # * " This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers,
is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative by suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce."
This clause in the Declaration of Independence was omitted from the draft adopted by Congress. Jefferson declares in his auto-