But, nevertheless, Washington, and Jefferson from whom Madison
received his inspiration, were opposed to slavery.
I do not know
that Washington ever took much action in the matter, but his
expressed opinion is on record. But Jefferson did so throughout his
life. Before the Declaration of Independence he endeavored to make
slavery illegal in Virginia. In this he failed, but long afterward,
when the United States was a nation, he succeeded in carrying a law
by which the further importation of slaves into any of the States
was prohibited after a certain year - 1820. When this law was
passed, the framers of it considered that the gradual abolition of
slavery would be secured. Up to that period the negro population in
the States had not been self-maintained. As now in Cuba, the
numbers had been kept up by new importations, and it was calculated
that the race, when not recruited from Africa, would die out. That
this calculation was wrong we now know, and the breeding-grounds of
Virginia have been the result.
At that time there were no cotton fields. Alabama and Mississippi
were outlying territories. Louisiana had been recently purchased,
but was not yet incorporated as a State. Florida still belonged to
Spain, and was all but unpopulated. Of Texas no man had yet heard.
Of the slave States, Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia were
alone wedded to slavery. Then the matter might have been managed.
But under the Constitution as it had been framed, and with the
existing powers of the separate States, there was not even then open
any way by which slavery could be abolished other than by the
separate action of the States; nor has there been any such way
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