- Alphabetical List of Authors
- Note On the Texts
- Part One: Colonial Settlements and Societies
- Virginia Articles, Laws, and Orders I610–11
- The Mayflower Compact November 11, 1620
- Fundamental Orders of Connecticut January 14, 1639
- The Massachusetts Body of Liberties December 1641
- Charter of Liberties and Frame of Government of the Province of Pennsylvania In America May 5, 1682
- Dorchester Agreement October 8, 1633
- Maryland Act For Swearing Allegiance 1638: Plymouth Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity 1625
- Little Speech On Liberty
- Copy of a Letter From Mr. Cotton to Lord Say and Seal
- Part Two: Religious Society and Religious Liberty In Early America
- The Bloody Tenent, of Persecution, For Cause of Conscience
- A Platform of Church Discipline
- Providence Agreement August 20, 1637: Maryland Act For Church Liberties 1638: Pennsylvania Act For Freedom of Conscience December 7, 1682
- Worcestriensis 1776
- Thanksgiving Proclamation and Letters to Religious Associations
- Farewell Address
- The Rights of Conscience Inalienable
- Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association
- Part Three: Defending the Charters
- Magna Charta 1215
- Petition of Right 1628
- An Account of the Late Revolution In New England and Boston Declaration of Grievances: Boston Declaration of Grievances
- The English Bill of Rights 1689
- The Stamp Act March 22, 1765
- Braintree Instructions
- Resolutions of the Virginia House of Burgesses June 1765: Declarations of the Stamp Act Congress October 24, 1765
- The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved
- The Act Repealing the Stamp Act March 18, 1766; the Declaratory Act, 1766
- Part Four: the War For Independence
- A Discourse At the Dedication of the Tree of Liberty
- Letters From a Farmer In Pennsylvania, Letters V and Ix
- Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress October 14, 1774
- Virginia Bill of Rights June 12, 1776
- On Civil Liberty, Passive Obedience, and Non-resistance
- Common Sense
- The Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776
- Part Five: a New Constitution
- Thoughts On Government
- Articles of Confederation 1778
- The Essex Result April 29, 1778
- Northwest Ordinance 1787
- Albany Plan of Union July 10, 1754
- Virginia and New Jersey Plans 1787
- The Constitution of the United States of America 1787
- The Federalist , Papers 1, 9, 10, 39, 47–51, 78
- Address of the Minority of the Pennsylvania Convention December 12, 1787
- An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution
- Part Six: the Bill of Rights
- The Federalist , Papers 84 and 85
- Letter I
- Essay I
- Letter Iii
- Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments: Virginia Bill For Establishing Religious Freedom
- Speech Introducing Proposed Constitutional Amendments: Debate Over First Amendment Language August 15, 1789: The First Ten Amendments to the Constitution, Or the Bill of Rights 1789
- Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States
- The People V. Ruggles
- Marbury V. Madison
- Barron V. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore
- Part Seven: State Versus Federal Authority
- Essay V: “brutus” 1787
- Chisholm V. Georgia: U.s. Constitution, Eleventh Amendment 1787
- The Alien and Sedition Acts June 25, 1798: Virginia Resolutions December 21, 1798: Kentucky Resolutions November 10, 1798: Counter-resolutions of Other States 1799: Report of Virginia House of Delegates 1799
- The Duty of Americans, At the Present Crisis
- Report of the Hartford Convention 1815
- Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States: a Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States
- Part Eight: Forging a Nation
- Opinion Against the Constitutionality of a National Bank: Opinion As to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States
- Veto Message
- Veto Message
- Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States
- Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois: Address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Newspaper Editorials: “direct Taxation” April 22, 1834: “chief Justice Marshall” July 28, 1835: “the Despotism of the Majority” March 25, 1837: “morals of Legislation” April 15, 1837: “the Morals of Politics” June 3, 1837
- Speech On Electioneering
- Speech Before the U.s. Senate (webster): Speech Before the U.s. Senate (hayne)
- Fort Hill Address
- Part Nine: Prelude to War
- Laws Regulating Servants and Slaves, 1630–1852
- “slavery” “agriculture and the Militia”
- The Missouri Compromise 1820–21
- Newspaper Editorials: “governor Mcduffie’s Message” February 10, 1835: “the Question of Slavery Narrowed to a Point” April 15, 1837: “‘abolition Insolence’” July 29, 1837
- Senate Speeches On the Compromise of 1850 Speech On the Slavery Question
- Second Fugitive Slave Law September 18, 1850: Ableman V. Booth (62 Us 506)
- Scott V. Sandford
- The Relative Position and Treatment of the Negroes the Abolitionists—consistency of Their Labors
- What Is Slavery? Slavery Is Despotism
- Kansas-nebraska Act 1856: Fifth Lincoln-douglas Debate October 7, 1858
“Agriculture and the Militia”
John Taylor (1753–1824) lived the bulk of his life in Caroline County, Virginia, taking time from his plantation to serve as a state legislator and member of the U.S. Senate. He worked against ratification of the Constitution, introduced James Madison’s Resolutions against the Alien and Sedition Acts in the Virginia House of Delegates, fought for religious disestablishment in Virginia, and argued against federal restrictions on the expansion of slavery into the territories. In addition to a number of works outlining the theory of American constitutional government, Taylor wrote extensively on agricultural topics.
Negro slavery is a misfortune to agriculture, incapable of removal, and only within the reach of palliation. The state legislatures, hopeless of removing all its inconveniences, have been led by their despair to suffer all; and among them, one of a magnitude sufficient to affect deeply the prosperity of agriculture, and threaten awfully the safety of the country; I allude to the policy of introducing by law into society, a race, or nation of people between the masters and slaves, having rights extremely different from either, called free negroes and mulattoes. It is not my intention to consider the peril to which this policy exposes the safety of the country, by the excitement to insurrection, with which it perpetually goads the slaves, the channels for communication it affords, and the reservoir for recruits it provides. I shall only observe, that it was this very policy, which first doomed the whites, and then the mulattoes themselves, to the fate suffered by both in St. Domingo; and which contributes greatly to an apprehension so often exhibited. Being defined by experience in that country, and by expectation in this, it is unnecessary for me to consider the political consequences of this policy.
My present object is to notice its influence on agriculture. This so entirely depends on slaves in a great proportion of the union, that it must be deeply affected by whatever shall indispose them to labour, render them intractable, or entice them into a multitude of crimes and irregularities. A free negro and mulatto class is exactly calculated to effect all these ends. They live upon agriculture as agents or brokers for disposing of stolen products, and diminish its capital, both to the extent of these stolen products, and also to the amount of the labour lost in carrying on the trade.
They wound agriculture in the two modes of being an unproductive class living upon it, like a stock-jobber or capitalist class, and of diminishing the utility of the slaves. This latter mode might be extended to a multitude of particulars, among which rendering the slaves less happy, compelling masters to use more strictness, disgusting them with agriculture itself, and greatly diminishing their ability to increase the comforts, and of course the utility of slaves, would be items deeply trenching upon its prosperity. It is however unnecessary to prove what every agriculturist in the slave states experimentally knows, namely, that his operations are greatly embarrassed, and his efforts retarded, by circumstances having the class of free negroes for their cause.
The only remedy is to get rid of it. This measure ought to be settled by considerations of a practical moral nature, and not by a moral hypothesis, resembling several mechanical inventions incarcerated at Washington, beautiful and ingenious, but useless. It is substantial, not balloon morality, by which the questions ought to be considered; whether a severance of the free negro class from the whites and slaves, will benefit or injure either of the three classes; or whether it will benefit or injure a majority of them as constituting one body? The situation of the free negro class is exactly calculated to force it into every species of vice. Cut off from most of the rights of citizens, and from all the allowances of slaves, it is driven into every species of crime for subsistence; and destined to a life of idleness, anxiety and guilt. The slaves more widely share in its guilt, than in its fraudulent acquisitions. They owe to it the perpetual pain of repining at their own condition by having an object of comparison before their eyes, magnified by its idleness and thefts with impunity, into a temptation the most alluring to slaves; and will eventually owe to it the consequences of their insurrections. The whites will reap also a harvest of consequences from the free negro class, and throughout all their degrees of rank suffer much in their morals from the two kinds of intercourse maintained with it. If vice is misery, this middle class is undoubtedly placed in a state of misery itself, and contributes greatly to that of the other two. The interest of virtue, therefore, as well as sound policy, is allied with the interest of agriculture, in recommending the proposed severance. If it should not benefit every individual of the three classes, as is probable, no doubt can exist of its benefiting a majority of each, and a very great majority of the whole. No injury, but much good to the whites and slaves is perceivable in the measure. And relief from the disadvantages of inferior rights, from the necessity of living in a settled course of vice, and from the dangers portended by it to a commotion among the slaves, promises great benefits to the free negro class itself from a severance.
It may be easily effected by purchasing of Congress lands sufficient for their subsistence in states where slavery is not allowed, and giving them the option of removing to those lands, or emigrating wherever they please. Perhaps both the national safety and prosperity would justify a harsher measure. To advance both by bestowing rewards, cannot be severe, unjust or illiberal.
At least it will be admitted by those acquainted with the subject, that the prosperity of agriculture is considerably influenced by the circumstances alluded to in this number.
Societies are instituted to control and diminish the imperfections of human nature, because without them it generates ignorance, savageness and depravity of manners. Those best constituted, cannot however cure it of a disposition to command, and to live by the labour of others; it is eternally forming sub-societies for acquiring power and wealth, and to these perfidious, ambitious, avaricious or unconstitutional sub-societies, the liberty and property of the rest of the body politic has universally fallen a prey. They are of a civil or military complexion, or of both, as the circumstances of the case may require fraud or force. Anciently, the general ignorance of mankind, caused the frauds of superstition to suffice for working the ends of traiterous sub-societies. As these became exploded, the more intricate pecuniary frauds were resorted to. Now, on account of the increasing knowledge and more prying temper of mankind, military force is united with pecuniary frauds. And hitherto the most perfect society for the public good, has never been able to defend itself against sub-societies in some form for advancing the wealth or power of a faction or a particular interest. Combine with this universal experience, that it is impossible to conceive a form of society better calculated to excite and foster factions or sub-societies, than one constituted of distinct colours, incurable prejudices, and inimicable interests, and the inferences are unavoidable. If the badges of foolish names can drive men into phrenzy without cause, will not those which powerfully assail both reason and the senses, create deadly factions.
The attempt will undoubtedly terminate according to the nature of man, as it has once already terminated; but its catastrophe ought rather to be courted than avoided if the author of the notes on Virginia is right in the following quotations. “The whole commerce between master and slave,” says he, “is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on one part, and degrading submissions on the other. The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.” Such is the picture exhibited in the Notes on Virginia of “the manners” of the people, without a single palliating circumstance; and Winterbotham in his history of America has quoted and varnished it anew.
No man has been less accustomed than the author of the Notes on Virginia to paint his opinions, for the same reason that an Indian paints his body; and yet from reading the whole chapter on the manners of that state, a stranger would hardly form a more correct idea of them, than a stranger to Indians would of their colour, on seeing one painted coal black. Circumstances affect the mind, as weather does beer, and frequently produces a sort of moral fermentation, which throws up bubbles of prismatic splendor, whilst they are played upon by the rays of some temporary effervescence, but destined to burst when the fermentation ceases. The Notes on Virginia were written in the heat of a war for liberty; the human mind was made still hotter by the French revolution; and let those who were insensible of the mental fermentations and moral bubbles generated by these causes, censure Mr. Jefferson. I should be unjust to do it.
If Mr. Jefferson’s assertions are correct, it is better to run the risque of national extinction, by liberating and fighting the blacks, than to live abhorred of God, and consequently hated of man. If they are erroneous, they ought not to be admitted as arguments for the emancipating policy. The considerations, which this chapter of impassioned censure of slave holders, inspire, are too extensive for a hasty essay, but a few of them may be noticed. I shall pass over the enlistment of the Deity in the question with an humble hope, that his justice and mercy do not require the whites and blacks to be placed in such a relative situation, as that one colour must extinguish the other; and as inclining to think the enrolment of his name on the side of the slaves, somewhat like a charge of inattention to his own attributes, apparently siding with masters throughout all ages and among most nations hitherto, the liberating St. Domingo masters excepted; and not a little tinged with impiety. Slavery was carried farther among the Greeks and Romans than among ourselves, and yet these two nations produced more great and good patriots and citizens, than, probably, all the rest of the world. In the United States it is also probable that the public and private character of individuals is as good, as in the countries where locomotive liberty and slavery to a faction, exist; nor do the slave states seem less productive of characters in whom the nation is willing to confide than the others. Even the author of the quotation himself may be fairly adduced as an instance which refutes every syllable of his chapter on Virginia manners, unless indeed this refutation, and an abundance of others like it, can be evaded by forming the best citizens into a class of prodigies or monsters, to evade the force of eminent virtues towards the refutation of erroneous assertions.
These facts are referred to the consideration of the physiologist. To me it seems, that slaves are too far below, and too much in the power of the master, to inspire furious passions; that such are nearly as rare and disgraceful towards slaves as towards horses; that slaves are more frequently the objects of benevolence than of rage; that children from their nature are inclined to soothe, and hardly ever suffered to tyrannize over them; that they open instead of shut the sluices of benevolence in tender minds; and that fewer good public or private characters have been raised in countries enslaved by some faction or particular interest, than in those where personal slavery existed.
I conjecture the cause of this to be, that vicious and mean qualities become despicable in the eyes of freemen from their association with the character of slaves. Character, like condition is contrasted, and as one contrast causes us to love liberty better, so the other causes us to love virtue better. Qualities odious in themselves, become more contemptible, when united with the most degraded class of men, than when seen in our equals; and pride steps in to aid the struggles of virtue. Instead therefore of fearing that children should imbibe the qualities of slaves, it is probable, that the circumstance of seeing bad qualities in slaves will contribute to their virtue.
For the same reason the submission and flattery of slaves will be despised, and cause us rather to hate servility than to imbibe a dictatorial arrogance; and only inspire the same passion with the submission and flattery of a spaniel. It is the submission and flattery of equals, which fills men with the impudent and wicked wish to dictate, and an impatience of free opinion and fair discussion. This reprehensible temper is a sound objection against any species of human policy, which generates it, and applies most forcibly against that conferring on an individual a power, so to dispense money and honours, as to procure submission and flattery from the highest ranks and conditions in society, a thousand times more genial to pride, than the submission and flattery of a poor slave; and ten thousand times more pernicious to nations.
Virtue and vice are naturally and unavoidably coexistent in the moral world, as beauty and deformity are in the animal; one is the only mirror in which the other can be seen, and therefore, in the present state of man, one cannot be destroyed without the other. It may be thus that personal slavery has constantly reflected the strongest rays of civil liberty and patriotism. Perhaps it is suffered by the Deity to perform an office without which these rays are gradually obscured and finally obliterated by charters and partial laws. Perhaps the sight of slavery and its vices may inspire the mind with an affection for liberty and virtue, just as the climates and deserts of Arabia, would make it think Italy a paradise.
Let it not be supposed that I approve of slavery because I do not aggravate its evils, or prefer a policy which must terminate in a war of extermination. The chapter on the manners of slave-holders before quoted, concludes with an intimation, that the consent of the masters to a general emancipation, or their own extirpation, were the alternatives between which they had to choose. Such a hint from a profound mind is awful. It admits an ability in the blacks, though shackled by slavery, to extirpate the whites, and proposes to increase this ability by knocking off their shackles. Such a hint adds force to the recommendation in the previous essay for separating the enslaved and free blacks, as some security against the prognosticated extirpation. And after such a hint, “with what execration should the statesman be loaded” who thus forewarned, should produce the destruction of the most civilized portion of society, and re-people half the world with savages. If England and America would erect and foster a settlement of free negroes in some fertile part of Africa, it would soon subsist by its own energies. Slavery might then be gradually re-exported, and philanthropy gratified by a slow reanimation of the virtue, religion and liberty of the negroes, instead of being again afflicted with the effects of her own rash attempts suddenly to change human nature.
Agriculture and the Militia
The rocks of our salvation; as they are called by legislatures, presidents, governours, and toast-makers, throughout the United States; and hard rocks indeed they need be, to withstand the saws, wedges, and chisels, made by law, to cut, split and chip them to pieces. It is probable that more talents were wasted upon the bank of the United States, at each of its epochs, than have been expended for the improvement of these national fortresses, for securing wealth and independence, since the revolution. Edifice, after edifice, has been raised upon their ruins; but the new structures resemble the venerable fabricks from whence they are torn, as the modern huts raised of its ruins resemble the ancient city of Palmyra.
A pernicious little army (pernicious as constituting a reason for neglecting the militia), a species of marine preparation, whose most striking features are decay, imbecility and expense; and an awful unconstitutional precedent, for resorting to a volunteer militia, officered by the President instead of the States, have dismantled one fortress, and all the arts to enrich capital and speculation legerdemain, by paper, at the expense of property and industry, as practised in England, are playing upon the other.
When the future historian of our republick, shall search for acts of patriotism, and matter for biography, the contrast between the heroes who have created, and the politicians who have ruined a nation, will afford him ample room for exhausting the strongest phrases of eulogy and censure. The first was not effected by enfeebling the heart, nor will the second be avoided by impoverishing the soil and its cultivators; by beguiling the militia of its power and importance, with substitutions founded in the pretext of diminishing its duty, but preparing the means of usurpation for some ambitious president; and by taxing agriculture in various crafty modes, under pretence of enriching it, but in fact to enrich capitalists at its expense.
The patriots of the revolution have chiefly retired to the enjoyment of a treasure, deposited beyond the schemes of craft, leaving to their successors two specious fields as productive of glory, as the field of war was to them. Far from exhausting the resources for gaining the transporting consciousness of having benefited our country, they left for these successors the creation of a proud militia and a fertile country, as equally meriting national admiration and gratitude, with the feats which secured our independence, and placed prosperity within our reach. But of what avail is it, that one set of patriots should have cut away the causes which enfeebled our militia, and impoverished our agriculture, if another does not enable us to reap from their valour the rewards which excited it? After wading through the calamities of war near to these rewards, to reject them, one by neglect, and the other by the preference of a harpy which always eats and never feeds, seems only consistent with the policy of the British parliament, which excited the resistance of the revolutionary heroes. Had they been told that they were fighting to destroy the militia, and to make agriculture food for charter and paper capital, they would have discerned no reason for making themselves food for powder.
It would be easy to shew that agriculture never can experience fair treatment without a sound militia, but it is a subject too extensive and important to be considered in this light way, and therefore they are only exhibited in union, in the concluding essay, to remind the reader, that they are political twins, one of whom never lives long free, after the other dies.
Executive, legislative and festive encomiums of these twins, which ought to be called “Liberty and prosperity,” though the unhappy delusions of fervour, produce the knavish effects of flattery; they prevent us from acquiring a militia and an agriculture, which deserve praise (false praise always excludes real merit), and keep us without laws for raising either to mediocrity, much less to perfection. I do not believe that these encomiums are generally the artifices of deliberate vice and secret purpose, to impose upon the enthusiastic and unwary, in pursuance of the precedents so often exhibited by rapacious priests clothed in the garb of sanctity; but yet rapacity may sometimes assume the language of patriotism, to keep the people blind to the dangers which threaten, and to the measures which can save them.
The good humour of the festive board will bear illustrations of these assertions, with less discomfort than cold design, or deluded negligence; and therefore, however inconsistent it may be with the gravity and importance of our subject, an aversion for giving pain to any one, induces me to supply it with the following toasts.
THE MILITIA . . . The Rock of our Liberty.
- Unarmed, undisciplined, and without uniformity, substituted by an ineffectual navy, an ineffectual army, and paper volunteers, officered by the president.
- Unpatronized even at the expense of a gun boat.
- Flattered and despised.
- Taught self contempt, instead of a proud and erect spirit. Nine cheers.
AGRICULTURE . . . The fountain of our wealth.
- A land killer.
- A payer of bounties and receiver of none.
- A beautifier of towns and a sacrificer of the country.
- A cultivator for stock, without stock for cultivation.
- Giving its money to those who will give it flattery.
- A weight in the legislative scales of the United States, as much heavier than a feather, as a feather is heavier than nothing.
- Its labour steeped in an infusion of thievery, dissatisfaction and sedition, by a mixture of bond and free negroes.
- Producing 40,000,000 dollars annually for exportation, bearing most taxes for publick benefit, and taxed in various modes for the private benefit of 300,000,000 dollars worth of capitalists who pay no taxes.
- Out of a remnant of the 40,000,000 dollars exported, compelled by protecting duties to pay heavy bounties for the encouragement of manufactures, already amounting to above 150,000,000 dollars annually. Nine cheers more.
A few words, at parting, to the reader, will close these essays. If he is of the courteous nature which loves to give and to receive flattery; or if his interest tugs him violently against them, he may disbelieve the plainest truths they contain, or at least reject them as being told in too blunt a style. If he is ignorant of agriculture or a devotee of a party or an idol, he will rather presume, that our agriculture is perfect and undefrauded, than take the trouble of enabling himself to judge; or silently swallow the grossest errours, than give up his superstition. These papers never contemplated the desperate hope of obtaining the attention of any one of these characters. Half the profit of agriculture, must undoubtedly convince the several tribes of capitalists, that it flourishes exceedingly. The idolator will rather embrace the stake than truth, and the agriculturist who prefers ignorance to knowledge, though these hasty essays constituted a complete system of husbandry, would be as little benefited by them, as a lawyer or a physician who practised by deputy, would be by the reports of Coke, or the dispensatory of Cullen. Yet to those who would think and inquire, opinions slowly and cautiously admitted, upon various views of national interest, without a motive likely to mislead or deceive, might afford suggestions capable of becoming subservient to better talents, awakened to the discussion of subjects so momentous to national happiness. To awaken such, was the summit of the author’s design.
Thomas Jefferson.—B. F.
William Cullen (1710–90), Scots physician, noted teacher and diagnostician.—B. F.