Anti-slavery efforts were a Taylor family affair; Bernard, Henry and Yardley were brothers. The Taylors were active in the transitory effort to manumit, then transport, former enslaved men and women to Africa or, subsequently – as explained in this column – to Haiti. It seemed a desperate act, and it was: abolitionists of the early 19th century were increasingly resigned to removing blacks from the nation altogether, in order to ensure the formerly enslaved their safety and freedom. The Nat Turner rebellion of 1831 brought a backlash to manumission societies, forcing many of them to disband.
This column from the Manumission and Emigration Society of Loudoun was written to be distributed in newspapers such as the Leesburg, Loudoun County Genius of Liberty. The column was printed in that paper’s June 21, 1825 edition. The transcription, below, was done by Bronwen C. Souders, Education Committee, Waterford Foundation.
To The Editor
Loudoun County June 21, 1825
Mr. Sower, I am directed by the Manumission and Emigration Society of Loudoun, to request the publication in your paper, of the enclosed address to the public, being an exposition of the views which it entertains of the important object of its association. The existence of African slavery is an evil, which has long engaged the serious attention of many of the citizens of the United States. Different societies have been established to encourage its removal. Yet it is believed that this is the only society which has ever made its appearance in this state. It is a question peculiarly interesting to every state where it exists. And it is in those states that any measure, having for its objects its removal, should there receive its first impulse, &c.—The time which has elapsed since the organization of this society, renders it desirable that its address should be published as speedily as practicable.
Benjamin F. Taylor, Corresponding Secretary
ADDRESS of the Manumission and Emigration Society of Loudoun, to the public:–
WE, the members of the Manumission and Emigration Society of Loudoun, deeply impressed with the importance of the object of our association, and encouraged by the favourable manner in which that object has been received, take the liberty to address you. The present attention of the friends of humanity, to the pernicious consequences arising from the existence of African slavery, appears to us, to furnish evidence that the crisis has arrived when their united exertions may greatly influence the public opinion, and produce effects the most extensive and useful. It is a fundamental principle, in our government, that all men are created equal; that they possess certain rights and privileges which no human authority can justly deprive them of such as life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That they however various in colour or intellectual endowments; however different in their habits, customs or pursuits, all are equally entitled to the enjoyment of those inestimable privileges. It therefore becomes the imperious duty, of every friend to the continuance and perpetuity of the blessings, arising from the existence of free government, to use every exertion in removing any infringement of the principles, which substantiate and secure it. Slavery, in whatever form it may appear, is entirely inconsistent with the principles of a republican government.—It is such an atrocious debasement of human nature—it is so dangerous in its consequences, and so incompatible with every principle of roatl [?] right, that the honour and safety of our country demands, the immediate exercise of those means we are possessed of, in effecting its final extinction. It must be obvious to you, that slavery cannot be justified; that it is a pernicious and dangerous evil, and that in the abstract it is universally condemned. Yet from this uniform conviction of its injustice some have been led to believe that it could never have been tolerated, but from some strong and irresistible necessity. This plea of necessity thus [?]ed to exist, has effected a particular [?] the continuation of this evil. There are those who have been led to give it a place, in the rank of those necessary evils, which are always supposed to exist, and to be the unavoidable lot of human nature, as sanctioned by the immutable decrees of that Being whose ways are inscrutable, and whose dispensations are not to be avoided.
The origin of evil is indeed a subject beyond the reach of human understanding. And the permission of it by the Supreme Being, is a subject, into which we can not conceive it necessary to inquire. But when the evil itself is a moral evil, which every individual can scrutinize, and which every individual must condemn; and when this moral evil has had its origin with ourselves, this plea of necessity must be removed; and let it not be presumed that we can thus evade the guilt and reproach which must attend it. If we reflect upon this subject, we will be convinced that every necessary evil must be unavoidable; and to be unavoidable it may presuppose some other and still greater evil would be incurred, were it revoked. What greater evil then can be produced, that that which consigned near two millions of human beings, of an innocent and unoffending race to the most degrading slavery—and subjects them to all the horrors of the most intolerable servitude!
But its effect is not confined to those who are its immediate victims. Its pernicious consequences are so extensive as to affect the interest of every member of the community.—All then should be equally interested in its removal. To satisfy you of the absolute necessity of adopting some plan whereby slavery may be extinguished, we need only refer you to the existing state of things in relation to its existence, and the inevitable consequences that will result from its continuance. It must be evident to you that we possess ample means for accomplishing its removal. It must be evident that every principle of justice, of sound policy, and of internal safety require it. And if we neglect to exercise those means, if we decline the favourable opportunity which now presents itself, we fail in the discharge of our duty and endanger the future welfare and security of our county. To substantiate this we need only refer you to a few facts. Accounting to the census of 1800 the number of slaves in the United States was 893,651; in 1810 they had increased to 1,191,364, which makes an enormous addition of 297,713 in 10 years. Agreeably to the last census the number was 1,538,178, which will made an annual increase of nearly 35,000, whereby their present number can be little less than 1,700,000. And at the end of this century they will have augmented by nearly 1,000,000. From this estimate it will be observed, that this lamentable evil is increasing its pernicious effects annually, to an extent which threatens the most alarming consequences. Hence the necessity of immediate exertion, in order to extinguish it. Every revolving year, as it enhances the number of slaves, increases in an equal proportion the danger arising from their existence among us and the difficulty that will attend their enfranchisement. It is a fact, which every day’s experience will confirm, that the longer any evil is suffered to exist, the greater will be the difficulty attending its removal. No matter what may be the nature of that evil; no matter now atrocious it may have appeared at the first introduction if it flatters our pride, if it increases our luxuries, if it interests our passions, such is the influence of habit and custom that what at its first appearance may have excited our utmost indignation, or appeared shocking to humanity will, if continued, cease to excite our concern, or awaken our sensibility.
That slavery in the abstract is abhorrent to every American requires no further illustration than a reference to the fact, that when tyranny only approached—when its deleterious effects had scarcely been felt, it was calculated to arouse every feeling in opposition and to call forth that admirable declaration, which asserts that mankind are naturally entitled to all the privileges of freemen, and to the exercise of every right which the mutual welfare of society does not require them to annul or surrender. That the welfare of society does not require that any portion of its members should be enslaved, it is presumed you will readily admit. On the contrary, slavery as it here exists, is universally acknowledged to be a dangerous and pernicious evil affecting the vital interest of the county. To every observer, it must be conclusive, that in those sections of our country where slavery is tolerated a great and important obstruct is thereby created, in the advancement of is prosperity. The wealth of every county is essentially connected with the prosperity of its citizens. Labour is the great promoter of national wealth. Any thing that has a tendency to nourish indolence, to discourage industry, to produce a diminution in the quality of active labour, is calculated to injure materially that country where such diminution exists.
With the improvement of our internal population, by the substitution of free labourers for those who are slaves, the condition of our country, both as regards its property and security, will be essentially improved. Then instead of having a large proportion of its citizens reduced to the degradation of labouring exclusively for the support of others, and who, from this circumstance, have an interest directly opposite to those by whom they are thus debased, they will have been exchanged for a body of citizens and freemen, forming a part of the same community, and having a community interest in the security and prosperity of the whole. So also will the quantity of labour be increased. For by reducing this species of our population to such a state of thralldom, by disfranchising and destroying all those rights which nature has given them in common with all mankind, we deprived them of the true feelings of men; we take them from a level with the human species and place them among the order of inferior creation; we destroy all that energy natural to man, and deprive them of all encouragement for the exercise, either of their mental or physical powers.
Hence it follows that slavelabour is less productive than free labour and consequently justice not only demands but our interest and our security will be promoted by the gradual and qualified emancipation of slaves. But there are other considerations which lead to the necessity of the abolition of slavery. It is essentially connected with the parity and consistency of our national character. The United States, ever since the establishment of our national independence has been endeavouring to convince the world that she wished to form a character consistent with the principles of justice and the natural equality of man. Such has been her zeal to defend a portion of her citizens who have suffered from the partial violation of those principles, that she has been engaged in consequence thereof, in repeated collision with foreign powers. The formation of a republican government, originating from and sanctioned by the will of the people at a time when civil liberty had almost been driven from the habitable land, was of itself calculated to awaken the jealousy and excite the animosity of those governments which derive their power and authority from principles entirely different. It resented a new era in the political history of the world. It really appeared as if the United States was destined to be an example for the world; to become the asylum of the oppressed and unfortunate of every country.
Yet previous to this, African slavery had unfortunately made its appearance in some of the southern colonies. Strange and astonished as it may appear, the same people who had been driven from their native land by the influence of arbitrary power and religious persecution, had been forced to seek an asylum in the then savage wilderness of America, became the instruments of inflicting upon an unfortunate race a species of tyranny more intolerable and more degrading that the annals of any age or country had ever produced. The causes which led to this event we do not propose to investigate. Suffice it to remark that such was the alarming increase of this evil that our government endeavoured at an early period to check its progress. Yet it was not until after the year 1808 that any effectual measures were adopted to prevent the further introduction of slaves. The undivided attention of the people of the United States appears to have been directed to the dangers which threatened them from without, whilst they were nourishing and promoting dangers of far greater magnitude within. They appear to have entirely forgotten, that whilst they were expending millions of treasure, and a profusion of life, their own security and freedom they were entailing upon a large proportion of their fellow creatures, all those evils, in a more aggravated form, which from themselves they were labouring to avert. The same causes have and will in all ages produce similar effects.
History furnishes numerous instances of the deplorable consequences which have arisen from the existence of slavery. It is our peculiar felicity that we are enabled by a reference to the past and by availing ourselves of the experience of former times, to judge and regulate the future. This advantage, if not properly improved, is of little importance. History directs us to the dreadful scenes produced by the existence of slavery in ancient Egypt and modern St. Domingo, and warns us to beware of a similar fate. It refers us to pernicious consequences which attended its existence in ancient Greece and Rome. These were nothing more that the effects which will ever be produced when it is tolerated. Liberty is the natural right of man. Any restraint upon it is contrary to the natural order of things and must in the course of time be removed. It is against the whole experience of mankind to suppose that slavery, as it exists in the United States, can be perpetuated. It must and will find a remedy. It remains for us to decide whether it shall be eradicated when we have the means of pursuing those measures which may have thr greatest tendency to effect the object with the least possible inconvenience to all the parties concerned, or leave it to be decided as one of those great events, where justice long disregarded seeks to obtain by the exercise of force its indubitable right to the ascendant.—Then as the illustrious and philosophic Jefferson well remarks, “the Almighty has no attributes that can take side with us in such a contest.”
In the difficulty and inconvenince which would arise from the incorporation of emancipated slaves, resulting from the difference in colour, and the debasing influence of slavery upon the one class, with the arrogant and presumptuous consciousness of superiority now enjoyed by the other, we may be relieved by aiding and encouraging them in their removal. It is known to you, that a society has long been established at Washington, the metropolis of the union, aided by numerous auxiliary societies in the several states, having for its object the removal of coloured persons to Africa. This society, ever since its first organization, has been incessantly engaged in this great and beneficent work.—And though it had had to encounter difficulties numerous and formidable; though it has had to remove prejudices long cherished and deeply implanted, yet relying solely upon its own resources, it has succeeded in establishing a colony, which is now [?], combined with such legislative aid as can be procurable, the most extensive and beneficial consequences may be justly anticipated.
Yet, not withstanding the cheering and animating prospect of the advantages which are likely to result from the prosecution of the object and design of the African Colonization Society, it is to be feared that our means are insufficient for the removal of the entire black population of the United States to Africa. The rapid and almost unparalleled increase of this species of our population; the great distance and consequent length of time it requires to prosecute a voyage and the unavoidable expense and difficulty attending their transportation, are facts which clearly demonstrate the inadequacy of our resources in effecting their entire expatriation by removing them to Africa. This leads to the necessity of seeking some auxiliary aid in order to accomplish this object. The island of St. Domingo, now known by the republic of Hayti, has been justly celebrated ever since its first discovery, for the excellence of its soil, the purity and salubrity of its climate and the value and multiplicity of its productions. It is now, from having been the seat of cruelty and the abode of anarchy and confusion, become the asylum of the oppressed and unfortunate African. A free government has been established, a liberal and corresponding policy created, and peace and tranquility restored. Yet with all those advantages, both natural and political, it is estimated that not more than one-third of the island is inhabited. It is evidently the policy of every country to promote the increase of its population so as to call into action all its resources.
This has influenced the president of Hayti to invite into his dominions a species of population which is here degraded beneath the dignity of human nature. He has declared his willingness to receive,and guarantee to them those rights which they have been for such a length oftime unjustly deprived of. In unison with this declaration, an agent of his government arrived in this county with instructions to enter in to such arrangements as might be found requisite for aiding and encouraging free blacks in their emigration. And after receiving the most unqualified assurance of the action and zealous cooperation of the constituted authorities of Hayti in effecting these desirable objectives equally beneficial to both countries, societies have been established at NewYork, Philadelphia and Baltimore, by the aid of which have been transported during the last year, 5000 free blacks, who have been received in the most cordial manner. Seeing then, fellow citizens, that slavery is a great and portentous evil; that all the obstacles which have hitherto been supposed to prevent its abolition, may be removed by an [sic] union of exertion, we take the liberty of earnestly inviting your cooperation, in order to produce its gradual but final extinction.
We ask you in the name of justice of which our country ought to be the palladium; we conjure you by your love for that country, by all those ties which connect you with posterity; by your interest in its future welfare, to save it by a timely effort from destruction and your character to future ages from reproach.
Signed by order of the Society,
YARDLEY TAYLOR, president
HENRY S. Taylor, secretary