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Mr. Birney's Letter To A Committee Of The National Conventio...

Mr. Birney's Letter To A Committee Of The National Conventio... image Mr. Birney's Letter To A Committee Of The National Conventio... image Mr. Birney's Letter To A Committee Of The National Conventio... image Mr. Birney's Letter To A Committee Of The National Conventio... image Mr. Birney's Letter To A Committee Of The National Conventio... image Mr. Birney's Letter To A Committee Of The National Conventio... image
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Öagisaw, Micir., Jan. 10, 1842, Gentlemen, - Your letter of May 12, communicating to me thal the friend3 of liberty then assembled in York, had iinanimousiy nominated mo as their Presidential candidate for 1844, wasduly received. Accidental circumstances having prevented my replying to it at once, further reflection Jet? me to postpone it till the Qutumn elections should lm past. What is our object? Liberty - the Itberty t,bat is twin bom wiih justice - the liberiy that respocts nnd protects the rightp, not of the weak only, on of the strong only, but of the weak and the strong; and eimply bccause they aro human rights. - We contend for liberty as sho presenta herself ih the Declaration of American Indcpendence - aaserting ihot a!l men aro created eqnal,thnt they are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and ïreating these rights as the gifi of the Creator to man as man - therefore inalienable. In thï-s, her clearest manife6ttion to the world, our countrymen have admired, not received her. We struggle for her re ception, her instnllation. We long to see the first woik of her reign - the abolition of slavcry, and.ihe protecti'in of every human being in the land by just nnd impartial laws.vVjII the frtends of liberty eucceed? - I have but fa int hope they will, to set off against strong fear? that they wii! not. If we look for success lo the generouo ïove of liberty now existing in our counsry, the cause is lost. But God is ever with them who content! for right, for justice, for mercy, how few aiever their number; and his aasiating providences are oüea encouragingly vouchsafed tuall such a6, in fuith and in the line of duty, watch fur his coming. The principies we ag a natiun profess, other nations are begirming to put in practico.' Their expansión will put to öight all oppoBtng system9. It may bc,the bright exampie of other nations, oider and more influential, will arouse in us the honorable ambuion not (n be left quite behmd in the race of civihztjtion. If not that, like the thief whom the coming day has surprised, and whose neighbore are already raisin the hue and cry, and joining in pursuit, we may be compclled to flingaway frotn ua the spoils of rapiño and ronniuding. The revolution of '76 frecd U8 from colonial dependencc, - not from slavery; not from the spirit of oppression : not from its companion spiritjhypocrify. There will, Jt is to be feared, be other revolutions needed, revolutions whose proee?ses will be ead, 8orrowful, sanuinary, beforo these malignant spirits shall be cast out. They have had too long possession of u?, have driven as tno ofteu into the fire and the water,to be cnst out in any but a death struggle. Unáer ihis possession, on tho 4th of Ju'.y, '7ü, calling on God and mn to bear witngs3 wiih our lipa we declare all men ntuledto liberly, whilst witb our handd we were holding ooe sixth of our ! tryraen inehaius. From thut time to this, we have ccrhtinuevl them in chains. We formed me Uuion "to establish jus tice1' - "to secure the blessinga of liberty.'' Tbia was our profossion ; now for our practice. We authorize the African slave trado to be carried on for twenty year9. We forbid the free States from trenting a free, men, women, children, flying from bonjds, and seeking rei'uge within thoir lim its; we enjoin the authorities to deliver them up afresh to their pursuers; we auihorize any one claiming anolher as his slavo to haul him before a Justice of thePeacejit ma y be one ofhis own choosing,j and tohave lbo case decided on affidaviis,! and on ex parte testimony ofhis own procuring. This we do, aud our iellow creatures, dweliing among us n peace, fearing no bami, aro precipitatcd - often within llie compassofu few minutes - from their fireaidcs and families, inlo the horrible guíf of slavery. This we do, without the intervoniiun of a jury, alihough the Consiituiiiiu provides thut, "in suits at comraun huv, vvliere ihe value in eonfroverey shuil exceed twenty dollars, the trial by jury shttll be prescrved," aud "that no peiöon shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due procesa of law." - AH tliiawe do converting the free States ioto hunling grouuds tor human prey, and atlempl to covor il from the world and even from oureelve8,by calüng the slave, a, "per son held to service undcr laws and the slave catcher, lithe party to ichom such service is due." We gunran'y to every elave State the wiiole powor of the Union to euppreas cvery of the enslavcd to achieve their ownliberly; and this without refer ence to the treawuent they receive frem their maaiers, or to the fact, that in severa! of the Siates the laves are the majority, and mcontempt of the Doclaration of Independenee, while asserting that whenever any förrn of Government fails to protect life and liberty, 'il is the right oi the people [the nmjonty] tQ alter or abolieh it." We purchaso Louisiana íind Florida by treuty, say nothing now of the want of constituiiohai authonty lodo that; l say oiily, that the President and Sánate alone have esiablished slavery in ihem- not justicu. In the District of Columbia, for which Congress is the exclusive consiilutional legislature, at the heart of the nution, Congresa have establishcd duvery aud the slave-trade - not justice. We glory over the natione, because of onr having been tlio fírstto abolisb by law the African Blave trade. We didn't need it any tonger. The American slave trade had euperseded it. This we drive by sea and by land, in eeasou and out of seoson, and under circumstaoces inhuman and revolting. We acknowledge the indepen'ience of a band of Texan marauders, aimost before they Iny aside the urms with which they perpetrated the robbery of their generou8 hoöt; we refuse to have any national intercourse with Haiti, whose Toussaint, may well stand beside any living or dead man; - with ilaiti, who achiuves her independeuce by tho valor of her sons,and who bas maintained it, aimost with the world against her, for halfa century. We love liberty? Yet the Presidential candidulee of the two great parties, at the last two elecitous, have been called on publicly to plede themselves in defonce of slavery. They did it, even promising the veto, should u become nece6sary. Senntors and Reprcsentatives in Cuugresa habitually atigmaiize the folluwers of Franklin, and Jay,and Rush, and Woolman, and Bcnez)t, nu traitors, incendia-s ries, ianatics; give their approbation to Lynch law, where they are concerncd, decluring they ought to be hanged - "hang ed like dos." The Senute, by a parliamentary trick, eludes the reading of the petitions for tfie abolition of slavery in tho District of Columbia, and whereever else Congress hae the power to aboltsh ií, and it has done so year after ycr; the House of Representativos by a rule exelude them. Thus both houses trampleon the Constitution to defend slavery, and it i submitted to. We have "freedom of speech" 6ecured to us in tho Cónstitution - on paper. - How has it fared the last ten years? - Who dares go into the southern half of this Union and speak of Ihe Declaralion of Independence, except in whispers, and publicly insist thal the object of the Constitution - to eetabhsh justice - ought to becarriedout in practico? Noone,unless he has made up bis mind to be scourged like elave; to die; lo bo "hanged like a dog." We have freedom of the pres?, too, secured to us in the Constitution. And in one view the press ninong us is free, end bravely does it exercise ils freedom; in opposing the progresa of universal liberty, the rcign of irnpurtiul justice, in crouching before the siavehulder; in encouraIgiiig hirn in his iniquity; in trealing with f5éorn3 and in mnligtiing the people of color in slandorously misrepresenting the object of the friendsof emaucipatton; in vihtying their characlers; in exciting the popu!aco to tumulls; in mising tnobs once and again to sack and pillage che Philanthropxst office, at Cincinnati,and to cast the presses belonging to it into the river; to do the sarr.e at Si. Louis j to repeat il at Alton; and at length to murder Lovejoy, in the very act of defendingthe true liberty of that press by whose recreancy hc was made to fill a martyr's untflnely grave. Yes, our pres9 is free to persecute what is good, run with what 3 evil, minister to the baser passions of the high rabble and thelüw rabblc, and therehy put monoy in ita t pocket. As a raoney mnking machine il i may be a good one or a bad one, according fc toihe times; but as a promoier of natioDal f virlue, of naiional harmony, of irue nation i al prosperity; as aa etevator of nationa! r characier, our presa is any tbiog elsc. - No man who regarde the purity ofhts i ily can aomit iuiu it ono in fifiy of its fiithy e sheets. Wo boast of the supremacy of our Con - slitution and laws. Yet persons i vicied of crime aro scoiirged in the L lic squaro of Nushville; throughout the t South those 8uspected of lieing isla are insuhed and dií-'aonured in their t persons, when nol hangetf ur like dogs on i the neare9t (ree; in Alabama, Mississippi, ( Arkansas and Missouri, colored men are i placed over slow fires, and their cries of i ajjouy or entrealy to bo released from t lucir Bufterings by being put to dcath at t once, ure net by the taunts end revilings t of tho surronntiing crowd; whtlst in the ( last mentioned State, the judge charges ( the grand jury in reference to this t der, that il is not punishable, beciuee the e perpelrators are ïiany; in Kentucky two i mei ckarged with a penitentiary ofíbnce are takeu out of ihe cuslody of the law by a "respectable" mob of seven hundred, i and hanged on the next tree; on the 1 sissippi river,twenty-three men are drown ( ed and shot by a vigilnnce corps! in ( nois two men are deiiberaieiy tried and Bhot by a corps of the same ñamo and qual ity - ooe bundred and twenty are ed, but all acquilted of courge. In cinnati, whilst the colored men of that city, ' beguiled by a promise of protection, laid i duwn their arms, wnh which they were i defending themselves and their tamilieB ogainst a pro-slavery mob, and placed ( themselves in the custody of their , ers, the people plundered their Uouses, , and violated iho perauns of their wivcs and daughters. , These, jou know, are but a few out oí the multitude oflawless cases wkich fora long time have been witnessed thröughout our conntry, cases that are not only daily increasing in number, but in atrocity. Only a naked list of theso caees for the last two or three years, would ex'end ibis communication to an inconvenient lenglh. But whilst lam considering thé slHt3 of he pubüc mind ae it effccls onr cause, I muet not omit the l'tjJlowing, the most mournful, aa they are moát ir.fnliible indexes of it: The persecuiion of the Mormons by the State of The Mormons profess to be a religious soct, inlatuated, if you picase, but this alone does not subject them to legat animadversión. To the municipal law they are bound to yield obedience, from it they have a right lo expect protectionjust as the peoplo ofany other religious fuithjOrofno religious faith. The persecution began with tho people in their neighborhood. Thtre was no attempt on the part of the subordínate magistracy to restrain them. They rather joined with the people. The moyement .extended becamo popular, euough so as to enlist the high popularity-seekers, who were nlreody in office. A levy of tronps were ordered, it was aoon filled, of course by the most iawless and proflígate. The Mormons were driven from their homes, deppoiled of their property, hunled down like wüd beast8, many of the men killed, more of them maimed and wounded, ;he women aubjected tothe most brutal violations, the rewhant, forlorn and destitute, expelled from the State. As a State was the wrong doer,they were without redres?, thf Unitkd States having nopower.even ifithadthe will, to restrain a sovereign State, or compel it to rrmke reparation. Th treatment of the Indians. Ab vno disce omnet. The Cherokees have been our firm friends for half a century. Up to 1820, they had ceded to us three fuurths of all their original torritory. Every time a freshgranlof land was wrung from them, we formally renewed our solemu guaranty of protection and security to them in the occupancy of the remainder. We encournged them tocivilization. They made rupid advances. Schools and churches had pprung up among them; artizaus were multiplying, and eupprising progress was mado in ngricullure and domesiic improve ment. A furthcr advancc in civilization, as well as the fact that the eevernl States in which their terrilory Uy,(Geor;jia, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina,) had left them without a hope oí ever being admittcd lo the commonest rights of einzen?, led them to the institution of regular government. This, which was but a natural step in their progress toward civilization to which we had been inviting them, and which was hailed with delighl by every true friend of his country and of his rnce, proved the beginning of their ruin. Instigated by the slaveholding States, the govornment from that moment resolved to eject them from their lands. Propositions of purchase were m;ide. The Chcrokces declined selling. They still conh'ded ín the guod will of the general government, so repeatedly expressed to them, and in the intcgrity with which the guaranty ofectioii would be performed. The admin stration finding Ihe consent of the C liero ees cuuld not be obtained, reaorled to the raud of a suppositious treaty. Knowing ts charBCter, the President approvod il. Phe Senato advised iis ratification. The Jherokees, ns soon as informod of it, rcnonstrated agaiust the unrea! procceding, md exposed the whoíe process by which hofraud had been conaummated. But it vas oí no avail. Again did they come forvard in a strain t-iill more humbled ind euhdued. Tbey stated they were tn injured, weak, and jjowerless peo)le, und had come to present themselves tt the feet of a great, strong, and maznanmous oation, and to implore tliem to mtcrere on their behalf. They aeked only ight- justice. At least, theysaid, do ïear ua; if we do not fully substuntiate tnd prove alt our allegations, we will sub nit in silence, without a complaining word o whatever dipposition muy ba made of ur petitiun. 'Fliis poor request was reused them. Their memorial was laid on he table without a hearing. At the time ippointed for their removal - for it was to ho wilderness west of theMississippi they vere to be sent- a military forco of sevsral thousand men wos sent into their coun ry under one of our generala. Not a ïund ora weapon was raised against him r his aulhority, and on or before the day )f their fate, every Cherokee in the State f Georgia looked for the last time on the ïomes and the grave of hts fathers, and lurrounded by the bayoneta of a civilized eople, turned hia back On them forever. Within six monihs after the removal comnenced, out of sixteen thoueand, the whole ïumber, two thousand perished. The destruction of church buildings and ither ediiice8, becauee they were permitted to be used for the dissemminaiion of ihe principies of liberty and humanity. - rhroughout all the fret States outrages of Lliis kind have been perpetratcd again and ignin. The puuishinent of the wrong doera has rarely fullowed; if it did, it was only a muckery of puaishment. Pennsylvauia iïnll, one of the architectural ornaments of Philadelphia, was erocted with a view lo Ü8 being uscd for the discusión of all suhjecis not of an immoral character, An anti-slavery meeling was held in it 6oon after it was opened fur use. The mot) ihreatened violence. Their threats were mnde known to tho mayor and other city authorilies. They took so littlo concern m tho matter, that they were thought to be favorable to the movements of the mob. - The building was accordingly burnt down before the face of the mayor. He made no effort worthy of the name, to prevent it. - He was supported at the next election by the favorers of this outrage, and has, I behev, Bince that, filled the same high statiou which he then so signally disgraced A law of (he State requires tho city to indemnify the owners of property destroyec by mobs. Notliing is plainer than that this case is embraccd withinits spirit as well as fis letter. Yet from that day to this - now nearly four years - il is believec the owners of Pennsylvania Hall have no recovered a dollar for their loss. TUis is but a 6ample of the treatment which the suflerer8 in all such cases have recoivet from the tribunals. Kidnapping is carned on this countr} to a great exteat - in some pnrts of it,almost without the necessity of secrecy or concealment. Scores of unsu&pecting col ored persons, bom free, are annaftlly sjxiritcd away from the free States, and solc into slavery in tho South. This trade (for it now deserves that name,) the legifi mate offspringof slavery, finds large mnterials in.the States North of the Ohia And euch is tho f:ivor that is shown it in parts of the State ofOhiobordering on the slave regions, that no grand inquest has for years had the courage or the virtue to lind a bilí of indictment against a kid napper, however plain and undeniable the proof of his guilt. Yet kidnapping, by the law, is a highly criminal offence . Extenfive os this crime prevails, no instance is remembered but one which was iollowec by punishment, wheretho victim was taken from a free State. Ia this category we mny put the broils and tumult, the murders and lynching the duels and and asaassinations, (unpnnished, for the most part unnoticed by the laws,) that are daily witnessed in our country ; and the fushion of which is finding its way iulo Congress and the State LegislatureB, portonding the speeriy overthrow and diseolution of social order, if that remuins yet to be done. A law abiding people under honest rulers must in the long run be a salo nnc prosperous people. If their laws should any of them be unsuitable, they will in duo time be mude what they ought to be. But a people whose rulers and leaders have cast offreverence for human lawq, ulways preceded by casting offreverence for laws of stilt higher obligation - such a people cun not be in a more pitiable and bopeless condition. There is much reason to fenr, on a review of our domestic history for the lust 12 or 15 ycars, thiit our poor country is falling, if eh.e has not already fullentato this coadUion. We have ao long nacticed injuaüce, uddiug to il hypocrisy, 11 the iremitneni oi' the colorod race, both legroes and ludians, tbat we bogin to rettrd itijustice asan element - a chief element - tho chief element in our governnent. Now, uo government which admits injustice iunn clement can be a harmonioua onc, or a permanent one. Ilarrr.omuny in the antagonist of injustice, ever ïas been, and ever will be; that is, 80 long as iujiisiioe lijéis, which can notbcnlwayp, or u ia a lie, a eemblance, thercfore, perahable. Tru'ë', trom the iraperfection of mttD, his ambition and öolfishriess, injustica ofton ñuds ils way incidentally into the adtninistration of public affairs, and mainlains ita footing a long time, before it is cast out by the legitímale elementa of go vernment. But il will ba cttüt out evenluully, whcrever justice is the basis of the government. But a government into which injusiice is admitted as an eesential par, raust of noceesity, be broken up, that new government may bo instituied, or it must dia- solve - cense to be any thing ihat oughtto ie called a government - becume a mero zigzag movement of brute forcé. Most of the Suuth American república are instances of the latter. Tney have dissolved, their leaders hu ving no proper notion' of uslice us the basis uf social organizatioD. Texas will soon add to tbe list, if she does not already deserve to bo placed on it. The Bruish West Indies would long sinco ïave diseolved as cotumunities, had they been unconnected with the home government. Sucb waa the tendency of all to ward utter social diesolution, at the timo parliument Btepped ia to arrest them, that one of tho Govurnors of Jamaicu(Sir Lionel Smith) was ot the opinión (hat even alavery would eoon have run itself out, if tbey had been let alone. These cornmuniliea nro now startod afreah,on the baeis of justice, and I can no more doubt uf their l'uture mprovement ihanl cun of the value of juetice in allhu- man affaire. The slave States, espccially the moro Southern of them, in which tho number of alavés is greater, and in whicb, of course, the sentiment of injustice ia stronger than in the more northern ones, are to be placed on ibe list of decaying comtnumties. To a philosophic observer, they seem to be falltng back on the scala of civilizcttion. Even at theiT point of retrogresión, the cause of civilization and human improvement would lose nolhing by their annihilalion. The question now for the Norlh finally to decide is, Shall tbe slave States draw us down with Ithera, and both perieh or shall we, by a decided conjunct cxcrtion of virluous energy, snve ourselves and them from dcalruction. When I say this question ia not vet finally decided by tho North, Í am not unaware that the Norlh has been for a long time approaching - of late rupidly - to a fatal decisión. Law has lost its h nor; it is in tho dust; none do it revcrencej us authority lo restrain, to punish, lo protect, is mocked at. A new power, more prompt and energelic, has ri8en up, that has pushed Law from her eeat ; one that tolerates no dissent ; that declares Law. unnecesaary - smelling of b'-gone ages; that risea up against aljií Lawsaiid coostitutiona tuo, thesolemn etxactmentê of the people; not c mally to repeal them, bwt setting aside at pleasure. Public opinión, nut Law, is henceforward to regúlate lhe t and duties, the obligations and privilt of Americana. And what is the led public opinión! The manufacture of demagogues who ho!d office. Is Pennsylvania Hall obnoxious to slaveholdera, becuuse in it their mnjeslicB are spokeo Let it be burnt - righi j public oj mands it. Is the right of poti solemn guoranty of the people o ted States - wrkten in theirjconstiraij unrepealed by them or their auihoriiyw it to be tramplcd on? Let it be doue. - Public opinión sancliona it. Are tha people of this country to be ecandalized by the exisienca of slavery snd the driving of the ílave trade under the eaves of their own capítol? Yes - public opinión calis for it. Ara the Mormons to be robbed, hunted down,.destroyed? Ycb. Public opimon approves it. Is a decisión of the Supreme Court of Ohio, declortng fhat her constitutton) enacted by the peopiü) forbids slavery to exist within her limits - ia this decisión to be Bet aside and the court brought intocontempt? Let itbeso: public opinión is aguinsl it. Is the freedom of speech and of the prosa to be suppressed when it takes the field against the Goliah of the South? Storm the printing offices - destroy the types - drag the presses in trtumph through the streets- cast them into the river-kill ihose who defend them. It's all right. - Public opinión is in favor of it. It is against this monster of violence and blood, wherever and whenever he has appeareJ, whether in the old world or in lhe new, ihat the Ntrth must fight and that soon and vuliantly and successfully, if she wouid safe hersclf and the South - or even herself. It is against this