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Full text of "Constitution of the New-England anti-slavery society: with an address to the public"

C O N S T IT U T I O N 



OF THE 



NEW-ENGLAND ANTf-SLAVERY SOCIETY: 

I 

WITH AN 



v&DDHESS TO THS FUBX.XC. 



BOSTON: 

J'RINTED BY GARRISON ANI) KNAPP. 
1832. 



CAir^ 



/:■ ;'. •■ 









CONSTITUTION 



We, the undersigned, hold that every person, of full age and 
sane mind, has a right to immediate freedom from personal 
bondage of whatsoever kind, unless imposed by the sentence of 
the law for the commission of some crime. 

We hold that man cannot, consistently with reason, religion, 
and the eternal and immutable principles of justice, be the prop- 
erty of man. 

We hold that whoever retains his fellow man in bondage, is 
guilty of a grievous wrong. 

We hold that a mere difference of complexion is no reason 
why any man should be deprived of any of his natural rights, or 
subjected to any political disability. 

While wc advance these opinions as the principles on which 
we intend to act, we declare that we will not operate on the 
existing relations of society by other than peaceful and lawful 
means, and that we will give no countenance to violence or in- 
surrection. 

With these views, we agree to form ourselves into a Society, 
and to be governed by the rules, specified in the following Con- 
stitution, viz. 

Article 1. This Society shall be called the New-England 
Anti-Slavery Society. 

Article 2. The objects of the Society shall be to endeav- 
or, by all means sanctioned by law, humanity and religion, to 



effect the Abolition of Slavery in the United States, to improve 
the character and condition of the free people of color, to in- 
form and correct public opinion in relation to their situation 
and rights, and obtain for them equal civil and political rights 
and privileges v.ith the whites. 

Article 3. Any person by signing the Constitution, and pay- 
ing to the Treasurer fifteen dollars as a life subscription, or tvv'O 
dollars annually, shall be considered a member of the Society, 
and entitled to a voice and vote in all its meetings, and to a 
copy oi any publications or communications which may be dis- 
tributed among its members. Honorary members may be chos- 
en by a vote of the Society. 

Article 4. There shall be an annual meeting of the Socie- 
ty on the second Wednesday in January, at which a report of 
the transactions of the Society for the past year, and of its in- 
come, expenditures and funds, shall be presented by the Board 
of Managers, and the following officers elected by ballot, viz.. 
A President, two Vice Presidents, six Counsellors, a Treasur- 
er, Corresponding Secretary and Recording Secretary, who 
shall hold their respective offices until the next annual meeting. 

Article 5. The said twelve officers shall together constitute 
a Board of Managers, to whom shall be entrusted the disposition 
of the funds, and the management oi the concerns of the Socie-, 
ty. They shall have power to nil any vacancy, which may 
occur in their board, until the next meeting of the Society ; and 
it shall be their duty to consider and adopt the means best cal- 
culated to promote the objects of the Society, and report the 
same to the Society. 

Article 6. Meetings of the Managers may be called by the 
President, or in his absence by either of the Vice Presidents^ 
when they shall judge it necessary, or on application to them 
from any one of the Managers for any specific purpose ; and 
special meetings of the Society may be called by vote of the 
Managers, or on application of the members of the Society to 
the Recording Secretary, and the time and place of the meet- 
ings of the Society shall be determined by the Managers. 



Article 7. The President shall preside ai all meetings of 
the Society and of the Managers ; in his absence, one of the 
Vice Presidents ; and in their absence, the oldest Manager pre- 
sent. 

Article 8. The Treasm-er shall collect the subscriptions 
and grants to the Society, and hold all its funds, and make pay- 
ments according to the votes of the Managers ; and he shall 
keep a true account of the same, and render an annual statement 
to accompany the annual report to th6 Society. 

Article 9. The Corresponding Secretary shall receive and 
keep all communications or publications directed to the Society, 
and transmit those issued by them, and shall correspond with 
the agents, (fr any other bodies or individuals according to the 
directions of the Society or the Managers. 

Article 10. The Recording Secretary shall notify all meet- 
ings of the Society, and of the Board of Managers, and shall 
keep the Records of the same and of the transactions of the 
Society, and shall furnish copies of any votes to any persons, 
when required by the President, or a Vice President. 

Article 11. The Board of ]\[anagers may appoint an agent 
or agents, to be employed in any part of the United States, in 
obtaining or communicating intelligence, in the pubhcation or 
distribution of tracts, books, or papers, or in the execution of 
any measure, which may be adopted, tc promote the objects of 
the Society. The compensation of the agents shall be deter- 
mined by the Board of Managers. 

Article 12. Any Anti-Slavery Society, or any association 
founded on kindred principles in the New-England States, may 
become auxiliary to this Society, by contributing to its funds, 
and by sending a delegate, or delegates, to attend its meetings. 

Article 13. There shall be a regular meeting of the Socie- 
ty on the last Monday of every month. 

Article 14. The Constitution maybe altered at any annual 
meeting, by a vote of two thirds of those present. ^ 



LIST OF OFFICERS 



PRESIDENT. 

ARNOLD BUFFUM. 

VICE PRESIDENTS. 

JAMES C. ODIORNE, 
ALONZO LEWIS. 

CORRESPONDING SECRETARY. 

WILLLVM LLOYD GARRISON. 

RECORDING SECRETARY. 

JOSHUA COFFIN. 

TREASURER. 

MICHAEL H. SIMPSON. 

COUNSELLORS. 

MOSES THACHER, 
JOHN E. FULLER, 
OLIVER JOHNSON, 
ROBERT B. HALL, 
BENJAMIN C. BACON, 
JOHN STIMPSON. 



At' the regular monthly meeting of the New-England Anti- 
Slavery Society, held on the evening of Feb. 27, 1832, 

Voted, That a copy of the Constitution and Address of the 
Society be sent to all the editors of newspapers in New-Eng- 
land, respectfully requesting them to insert in their columns a 
notice of the formation of the Society, with the Constitution, 
and such portions of the Address as they may find room to ex- 
tract. 

Voted, That a copy of the same also be presented to every 
clergyman in New-England, earnestly soliciting his co-operation 
in promoting the objects of the Society. 

Voted, That the friends of the people of color, and the peo- 
ple of color themselves, in the various towns in New-England, 
be invited to form auxiliaries to this Society, and to notify the 
Corresponding Secretary of their organization as soon as may 
be practicable. 



ADDRESS. 



Fellow-Citizens : 

The object of our Society is neither war nor sedition. Al- 
though the sufferings of that class of our brethren, for whose 
rights we plead, are immeasurably greater, than would be deem- 
ed sufficient with any other people to gird on the armor, and 
march to the field of battle and of blood ; yet, we hope ever to im- 
bibe the spirit of Him, who says, ' Resist not evil; ' — ' they that 
take the sword, shall perish with the sword.' Governed by such 
a spirit, the weapons of our warfare can never be carnal. The 
only influence we can exert must be that of moral suasion^ and 
not of coercion. In the truth, and the God of truth, alone we 
trust, for the success of our exertions ; and with the truth, and 
in the name of the God of truth, we plead for the cause of 
humanity. 

The fundamental principle upon which our Constitution is 
based, is, our Saviour's golden rule : Jill things whatsoever 
ye would that men should do to you^ do ye even so to them. Hence 
the grand articles in our creed : — ' That God hath made of one 
blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth ; ' * 



*Act8 xvii. 26. 



s 

— ' that all men are created equal ; that they are endowed by 
their Creator with certain unalienable rights ; and that among 
these are hfe, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' * 

Based upon such principles, guided by such maxims, and 
holding such articles of faith, our Society must necessarily be 
what its name signifies. We are, from principle, opposed to 
Slavery. We believe, too, that such a spirit becomes the very 
genius of our country. The whole American people ought to be 
an Jlnti- Slavery Society. This is the very first principle upon 
which our government is built. The spirit of civil and religious 
liberty requires it. The Declaration of '76 requires it. The 
spirit and letter of our Constitution require it. The spirit of the 
gospel of Christ, and the voice of public, commutative and re- 
tributive justice, imperiously demand it. 

We must, then, be wholly inconsistent with ourselves, and 
the principles by which we profess to be governed, if we do not, 
by every laudable exertion, induce as many of our fellow-citi- 
zens as possible to become anti-slaveholders, and ' endeavor by 
all means sanctioned by law, humanity, and religion, to effect 
the abolition of slavery in the United States.' To effect this 
object, we consider it our imperious duty to diffuse, as widely 
as possible, a knowledge of just and correct principles on the 
subject of slavery* ; to arouse the consciences of the wise ; to 
enlighteri the understandings of the ignorant ; and incessantly to 
appeal to every principle of humanity, benevolence, justice and 
natural affection, in behalf of that degraded and wretched class 
of our colored brethren, who are retained in ignominious and 
cruel bondage. 

We beheve that slavery is an evil noiv ; and, of course, the 
slaves ought to be note -emancipated. If the thief is found in 
possession of stolen property, he is required immediately to re- 
linquish it. The slaveholder and the man-stealer are in unlaw- 
ful possession of the stolen sons and daughters of Africa ; they 
ought, therefore, immediately to set them free. Who will say, 



* Declaration of Independence. 



9 

' We must continue supremely and sordidly selfish for years to 
come, and leave the dispensation of justice to the third and fourth 
generation of our posterity ' ? We say, that slavery is an evil 
and a curse ; what right have we then, to entail this evil and curse 
upon unborn generations ? Every principle of humanity, of be- 
nevolence, or of equity, which requires that the slaves be 
emancipated at all, demands that they be emancipated now. Let 
us suppose ourselves in the place of the African.* Here, then, 
are two millions of our parents, of our children, of our wives, 
and of our brethren and sisters, in thraldom. Here are our 
wives, and our sisters, and our mothers, and our daughters, 
treated like brutes, abused to the most shameful purposes of 
sensuaHty, and compelled to the most ignominious prostitution ! 
Do we then contend for gradual abolition ? Do we say, the 
time has not yet arrived for our kindred, bone of our bone, and 
flesh of our flesh, to be set at liberty ? — that they must be man- 
umitted only one, two, a dozen, or a score at a time, and those 
immediately transported beyond the seas ? Who, reflecting 
and weeping over the bondage of their oicn parents, wives, sons 
or daughters, would thus act the part of maniacs ? But, ' al) 
things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye 
even so to them ; for this is the law and the prophets.' Every 
principle which proves slavery unjust, an evil and a curse, 
equally demonstrates the duty o^ immediate manumission. 

Believing the foregoing principles to be established, we can- 
not but view some of the measures now strenuously advocated 
and pursued, in our own country, on the subject of slavery, as 
radically wrong, and calculated to perpetuate, rather than re- 
move, the evil we so much deprecate. Having no disposition 
to impugn the motives of those who advocate the system of 
Colonization, and willing to admit that many have put their 
hands to that work from feelings of the purest benevolence ; we 



* We use the terms ./S'/ncfl'n, and sons and daughters of Africa, for the 
sake of distinction. We believe that every colored person, who is either born 
in this country, or forced to make this the place of his residence, is as really an 
American, as any white-born citizen of New-England. 



10 

must still consider them as guided by a delusive view of the 
whole subject, contemplating the object of their desires through 
a false medium, and pursuing a course which, in its ultimate 
tendency, must involve our country in remediless ruin. That 
the grand project of the ' Colonization Society ' is wholly chi- 
merical, is demonstrated by the following calculation of the 
magnanimous Charles Stuart : — 

• The United States have about 2,000,000 slaves, and about 500,000 free 
colored people. 

The American Colonization Society has existed for 13 years, and has ex- 
ported yearly, upon an average, about 150 persons. 

Meanwhile the natural yearly increase has been 56,000 souls ; and nearly 
a million have died in slavery 1 ! 

But it may be said, this is only the beginning — more may be expected here- 
after. — Let us see. 

The average price of transporting each individual is calculated at 30 dollars : 
suppose it to be reduced to 20, and then, as 56,000 must be exported yearly, 
in order merely to prevent increase, 1,120,000 dollars would be yearly requisite 
simply for transportation. Where is this vast sum to come from ? Or suppose 
it supplied, still, in the mass of crime and wretchedness, as it now exists, there 
would be no decrease! Two millions of human beings every 30 years would 
still be born and die in Slavery ! ! 

But perhaps you wish to extinguish the crime in thirty years. 

Then you must begin by transporting at least 100,000 yearly. In order to 
do this, you must have an annual income of upwards of 2,000,000 dollars ; and 
if you have not only to transport, but also to purchase, you would probably want 
yearly, twenty millions more ! ! 

Where are you to get this ? — 

Or suppose it got, and still one generation would perish in their wretchedness ; 
2,000,000 of immortal souls — plundered by you of the most sacred rights of 
human nature ; of rights always the same, and everlastingly inalienable, 
however plundered — would have perished unredressed, and gone to confront 
you at the bar of God. 

And will He not make inquisition for blood ? And what will it avail you to 
say, ' Oh, we satisfied ourselves, and traversed land and sea, and spent thousands 
to satisfy otliers, that if we transported a few hundreds or thousands of our op- 
pressed fellow-subjects to a distant country, yearly, with care, we might guilt- 
lessly leave the remaining hundreds of thousands, or the millions, in slavery, and 
harmlessly indulge the invincible repugnance which we felt to a colored skin. 
We really thought it better, to exile our colored brethren from their native 
country, or to render their lives in it intolerable by scorn, should they obsti- 
nately persist in remaining in it ; — we really thought this better, than humbling 
ourselves before our brother and our God, and returning to both with repenting 
and undissembling love.' 

But, supposing the scheme of colonization to he practicable, 
and that our whole colored population can be removed within 
the period of thirty years ; where is the justice of such a meas- 
ure ? Estimating the whole number of slaves and free colored 



1 1 

persons in this coimtiy, at two millions, and allowing only for 
one eighth of the whole number to die on their passage, and by 
necessary exposure to disease and a change of climate, on arriv- 
ing in Africa ; we have, in addition to the two millions, who 
must ' be 6or?j. and f/Je in slavery,' during this thirty years, a 
sacrifice of two hundred and fifty thousand lives ! Here, then, 
at the lowest possible estimate, are two millions, two hundred 
and fifty thousand, v/ho are either to be born, and live, and die 
in slavery, or to literally throw awaj their lives, by being decoy- 
ed or coerced beyond the seas ! If this is justice, if this is hu- 
manity, if this is philanthropy, we must confess ourselves whol- 
ly ignorant of the laws of God, of the principles of equity, of 
the letter and spirit of the ^golden rule,' and of that great mor- 
al precept, which requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

Besides, we are constrained to consider the emancipated 
slave as really entitled, by right, to a peaceable possession in 
this land of light and boasted freedom, as any white-born Amer- 
ican. He is, indeed, as really an American as any of us. Tliis 
is his native land. It is the soil which has been sprinkled with 
his own blood, and which he has literally earned, perhaps twen- 
ty times over, by ' the sweat of his brow.' To deprive him of 
this possession, is to deprive him of his birth-right. It is to rob 
him of that inheritance, to which he has an infinitely better title, 
than the master for whom he has toiled, to the plantation which 
he calls his own. 

Our colored population have ever contributed, either direct- 
ly or indirectly, to the support of our government. Even the 
slave pays taxes by the hand of his master ; and the excise 
thus demanded for the support of a free government, is the price 
of his blood. We affirm, then, that our colored population have 
the right of protection in this their native land, and are justly 
entitled to every constitutional franchise of free citizens. To 
deprive them of this right, either by stratagem, or by coercion, 
is tyranny. If the color' of the skin is to give construction to 
our Constitution and laws ; let us, at once, begin the work of 
excision. Let us raise an army of pure whites, if such an army 



VI 

can be found ; and let us drive out and transport to foreign 
climes, men, women and children, who cannot bring the most 
satisfactory vouchers, that their veins are flowing with the pur- 
est English blood. Indeed, let us shut up our ports against our 
own mariners, who are returning from an India voyage, and 
whose cheeks and muscles could not wholly withstand the in- 
fluence of the breezes and tropics to which they were exposed. 
Let us make every shade of complexion, every difference of 
stature, and every contraction of a muscle, a Shibboleth, to de- 
tect and cut off a brother Ephraimite, at the fords of Jordan. 
Though such a crusade would turn every man's sword against 
his fellow ; yet, it might establish the right of precedence to 
different features, statures and colors, and oblige some friends 
of colonization to test the feasibility and equity of their own fa- 
vorite scheme. 

From the attention with which we have been able to examine 
' the subject, we are convinced, that the system of colonization, 
so zealously advocated by many in our country, instead of ef- 
fecting the cure for which they profess to prescribe, must di- 
rectly tend to perpetuate the curse of which we complain. To 
remove the free colored population from the slaveholding states, 
enhances the vahie of slave labor, and increases the temptation 
to multiply their numbers. It removes the most fruitful source 
of information to the slaves themselves ; and, of course, pre- 
serves them in ignorance of their natural rights.* This has ever 
been a desideratum with the planter, and a primary object of 
legislation at the South. To enhance the value of slave labor, 
and to hold the slaves in perpetual ignorance, may be reckoned 
the fundamental principles of slavery itself ; and although we 
might be astonished to hear the logic of tyrants from the tongues 
of freemen, yet strange as it may appear, these very doctrines 



* Indeed, we are told publicly, by those who advocate the system of coloniza- 
tion, that the slaves must not be taught to read even the Bible; because, for- 
sooth, they will then read our Declaration of Independence, and our Fourth-of- 
July Orations, and our panegyrics upon the blessings of liberty ; and by and by, 
♦ some black La Fayette' will rise up to put them in possession of these natural 
and inalienable rights \—Mr. Ladd's Speech before Col. Soc.ofMass. Jan. 27. 



13 

are eftectually supported by colonization, and the necessity of 
holding the slaves in ignorance is strenuously advocated by its 
most zealous and liberal patrons. We hence find that the num- 
ber of slaves has actually increased since the Colonization So- 
ciety commenced its operations ; * and it is no less a matter of 
fact, that some of the most influential and opulent planters, who 
were at first jealous of its principles and designs, have since 
come forward and contributed liberally to its funds. 

While we plead for the immediate manumission of those in 
bondage, and, at the same time, consider it, next to slavery it- 
self, cruel and oppressive either to decoy or coerce the free 
people of color out of our country ; we hold ourselves bound, 
by every laudable and lawful exertion, to improve their charac- 
ter and condition, to instruct them in the first principles of civil 
and religious liberty, and to qualify both bond and free for hold- 
ing rank, and enjoying privileges in common with other citizens 
of the States and Nation. 

Such exertions as these we consider not only as an act of jus- 
tice to our long degraded and abused colored population ; but 
as an imperious duty which we owe to our country. They are 
the only means in our power to prevent the effusion of human 
blood, and avert the judgments of Heaven. Our hearts res|K)nd 
to the sentiment and language of an eminent statesman^. | ' I 
tremble for my country, when I reflect that God is just.' The 
slaves cannot be long retained in bondage. If their tyrants do 
not voluntarily break the yoke of their vassalage, the providence 
of God and the judgments of Heaven will doubtless break it for 
them ; and we venture to predict, that a way will ere long be 
opened for them to seek and obtain redress. Their sighs and 
groans have long ascended up into the ears of the Lord of Sab- 
aoth, and their blood has long cried to him from the ground. Is 
it then unreasonable to suppose, that God is now saying em- 
phatically, both by his word and providence, ' Shall I not visit 



* Compare the last Census of the United States with that of 1820. 
t Mr Jefferson. 



14 

for these things ? and shall not my soul be avenged on such a 
nation as this 9 ' In what ivay he will redress the wrongs of 
our colored brethren, we do not pretend to designate ; but we 
are constrained to believe that the time of their deliverance is 
at hand. It is our heart's desire and prayer to God, that none of 
our countrymen may be so infatuated as to destroy themselves 
by fighting against his word and providence, and the eternal 
principles of truth and equity. 

The slaves cannot be long kept in ignorance of the first and 
most invaluable legacy of nature. The march of free enquiry 
and a knowledge of equal rights, the very first principles of 
emancipation, is, ' onward.' We may forbid the philanthropist 
to teach and the captive to learn ; but, we may as well undertake 
to clip the wings and stay the course of the celestial messen- 
ger, who has received the divine mandate to preach the ever- 
lasting gospel to them that dwell on the earth. We may as well 
forbid the beams of the meridian sun to gild the height of the 
Andes ; essay to roll back the tide of the ocean ; command the 
dew-drop to stay itself forever in the sky ; pufF back the north- 
ern blast with the breath of our nostrils ; or attempt to compass 
and ' bind Arcturus and his sons ' with a shred of flax ; as to 
think of holding our colored brethren in perpetual ignorance and 
perp^ual bondage. If the master will not instruct his slave, 
still the slave will take it upon himself to learn. Already the 
toil-worn bondman, who, by his own vigilance and sagacity, 
lias picked up a knowledge of letters, collects, in sequestered 
groups, his fellow slaves, at the close of their daily task, 
and, like the Jewish high priest, ' rehearses in their ears 
all the words ' of the law of liberty. He reads to them 
orations, dissertations and panegyrics, which embrace the 
very first principles of our civil institutions and poHtical rights ; 
and which instamp upon their minds the indelible impression, 
that they have the same title to be free. These intonations and 
songs of prospective liberty, flow as sweetly from the Hps of a 
fellow slave, and as readily vibrate with their heart-strings, as 
the most impassioned eloquence of an Adams, a Hancock or a 



15 

Henry ever thrilled through the bosoms of those revolutionary 
heroes, whose names are now enrolled upon the page of history, 
as having ' bid defiance to the thunders of Britain,' and resolved 
either to die, or to break to pieces the yoke of foreign domina- 
tion. 

To prevent the scenes of St. Domingo from being acted 
here, we call upon the nation to be just. To say that imme- 
diate emancipation will only increase the wretchedness of the 
colored people, and that we must pursue a system of gradual 
abolition ; is to present to us the doubje paradox, that we must 
continue to do evil, in order to cure the evil vvhich we are 
doing ; and that we must continue to be unjust, and to ' do evil 
that good may come.' There is, we beheve, but one aherna- 
tive. The master must manumit 'his slave, or the slave tcill 
manumit himself. We have no doubt, that the God of heaven, 
\yho is a God of justice, is, at this moment, in his word and 
providence, setting before the Southern planter this very alter- 
native ; and this alternative embraces ' life and death, a blessing 
and a curse.' To choose the first, and say to the slave, BE 
FRE'E, is to shut the floodgates of human wo and of human 
blood. To choose the latter, and hold the colored man in 
vassalage, must, ere long, break up ' the fountains of the great 
deep,' and have a direct tendency to unsheathe the sword of 
vengeance, revolution, carnage and death. On this subject, 
we can hardly feel that any language is too strong. We appeal 
to the better judgment and patriotism of our fellow citizens ; we 
appeal to the understanding, conscience and heart ; we appeal 
to all the tender sympathies of humanity and natural affection ; 
we appeal to every citizen, who deprecates the horrors of St. 
Domingo and Southampton ; and we conjure every one, who is 
capable of feehng or of reflection, to weigh in an even balance 
the present evils and inevitable consequences of slavery. In 
the. language of a distinguished statesman and scholar,* on anoth- 
er subject, we do but express the real feelings and sentiments 
of our hearts on this : — ' On this theme, my emotions are unut- 



' Fislier Ames. 



16 

lerable. If I could find words for them, if my powers bore any 
proportion to my zeal, I would swell my voice to such a note of 
remonstrance, it should reach every log-house beyond the moun- 
tains. I would say to the inhabitants, wake from your false se- 
curity : your cruel dangers, your more cruel apprehensions, are 
soon to be renewed : the wounds, yet unhealed, are to be torn 
open again : in the day time, your path through the woods will 
be ambushed ; the darkness of midnight will glitter with the 
blaze of your dwellings. You are a father — the blood of your 
sons shall fatten your corn-field : you are a mother — the war- 
hoop shall wake the sleep of the cradle. 

' On this subject, you need not suspect any deception on your 
feelings : it is a spectacle of horror, which cannot be overdrawn. 
If you have nature in your hearts, they will speak a language, 
compared with which all I have said or can say will be poor and 
frigid.' 

To do away the horrors of slavery, and prevent such ravages 
as are here depicted, we do most earnestly invite the oo-opera- 
tion of our fellow citizens ; and we can hardly conceive how 
any one is entitled to the name of a philanthropist or of a Chris- 
tian, who is either ashamed or afraid thus to show himself a 

FRIEND TO HIS COUNTRY AND A FRIEND TO THE BLACK MAN. 

ARNOLD BUFFUM, President. 
Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Secretary.