78 Southern Historical Society Papers.
ble chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities." "But," says Mr. Fiske, "these prophetic words were powerless against the combination of New England with the far South."
Thus by the votes of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connec- ticut, wjth those of the far South, an additional twenty years was added to the century and a half during which the slave trade was licensed by law, and when that period had rolled around, the states- men and thinkers of the land stood front to front with the problem of emancipation under far different, and more difficult conditions.
The General Assembly of Virginia on more than one occason con- sidered the subject of gradual emancipation, and as late as 1832, the advocates of such a course mustered a following almost large enough to enact their resolutions into laws. The great difficulty, however, lay in the dangers to the community of the mere presence of such a host of slaves suddenly released from the restraints and care with which they were formerly surrounded.
The sentiment of a large, if not the dominant element of the peo- ple of Virginia, was doubtless expressed in the words of Robert E. Lee, who, writing in December, 1856, declared:
SLAVERY AN EVIL.
"There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. I think it is a greater evil to the white, than to the colored race. While my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more deeply engaged for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically and socially. * * * Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influences of Christianity, than from the storm and tempest of melting controversy. * * * While we see the course of the final abolition of human slavery is still onward, and give it the aid of our prayers, let us leave the progress, as well as the results, in the hand of Him who sees the end, who chooses to work by slow influences, and with whom a thousand years are but a single day."
The great apostle of liberty, Mr. Jefferson, realizing the dangers and difficulties of emancipation, and yet discerning some signs of the future, penned in the closing years of his life these words: " Nothing