Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 27.djvu/85
Tin Vlnili'-'lU'iH / ll> Smith. 77
biography that it 'was struck out in compliance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation <>t slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also, I believe, felt a little tender under those cen- Mires, tor though their people had very few slaves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others."
In October, 1778, the General Assembly of Virginia, then freed from the control of the British King, passed an act forever prohibit- ing the further importation of slaves into her Commonwealth. When she ceded to the Union the great northwest territory, won by the blood and the treasure of her people, she not only dedicated to the general government this imperial empire, but by the hand of her s< nis, Edward Carrington and Richard Henry Lee, constituting with Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, a special committee, prepared the celebrated ordinance of 1787 for its government, in which it was provided that slavery should never exist in all that wide territory.
THE SLAVE TRADE.
Thus Virginia not only gave to the Union the territory from which five of the foremost Commonwealths were carved, but dedicated it to freedom. The supreme opportunity, however, of suppressing the slave trade, came upon the adoption of the Federal Constitution. With every increase in the number of slaves, the difficulties and dan- gers of emancipation were multiplied. The hope of emancipation rested in stopping their importation, and dispersing over the whole face of the land those who had already found a home in our midst. Despite the opposition of Virginia, the legality of the .foreign slave trade was extended for a period of twenty years. This action of the convention is declared by Mr. Fiske, the New England historian, " a bargain between New England and the far South." Continuing, he says: "This compromise was carried against the sturdy opposi- tion of Virginia."
George Mason, the author of our Bill of Rights, denounced what he called the " infernal traffic." " Slavery," said he, " discourages arts and manufactures; the poor despise labor when performed by slaves; they prevent the emigration of whites, who really strengthen and enrich a country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners; every master of slave? is born a petty tyrant; they bring the judgment of heaven on a country; as nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevita-