Dr. Durbin’s “Plan to Extinguish Slavery” Considered
Mr. Editor,--Your paper of the 10th instant contains a “Plan to extinguish Slavery,” from the pen of Rev. Dr. Durbin of this city, which, the author says was “written two years ago,” but not published before on account of our peculiar “foreign relations” The plan proposes that . . .
First. Remuneration must be made to the owners from the treasury of the United States.
Secondly. The appropriations . . be made constitutionally.
Thirdly. The emancipated slaves must be removed from the country.
The first question that naturally presents itself to my mind on reading this article is, Do the Southern people themselves really desire a “plan to extinguish slavery?” Have they not uniformly maintained the doctrine that negro slaves are necessary to the successful culture of rice, sugar, and cotton? Have they ever . . . a desire for the extinction of slavery in the congress of the nation, or in the general assemblies, or accommodations, or conferences or conventions of the great leading Churches of the country? Or in the annual meetings of the American Colonization Society, as held in the house of congress during the last twenty-five years? As far as my observation extends they have not, but the contrary.
In the strenuous efforts put forth during the last presidential campaign, to defeat the nomination of Mr. Van Buren, and to elect Mr. Polk, on the single question of . . ., and then running the slave line three hundred and thirty miles above the Missouri compromise, they evinced a disposition to extend and perpetuate the system, and in their present struggles to annex extensive Mexican territory as slave states, they, up to the time, manifest an . . . .determination to extend slavery from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They not only propose no “plan to extinguish slavery” themselves, but unequivocally declare that they will give no countenance to any such “plan” coming from the North, that they consider it an officious meddling with their own domestic institutions.
But is the “plan” itself practicable? I apprehend it is not. It proposes that our general government raise “four hundred and fifty millions of dollars, to be appropriated to the purchase of three millions of slaves, at an average of one hundred and fifty dollars, and one hundred and fifty millions of dollars to be appropriated to the purchase of territory in Africa, their removal,” &c. Now suppose the “six hundred millions of dollars” already raised, and at the disposal of congress, have the state legislatures a constitutional right to demand of any owner of slaves in that state, that he shall deliver up to the general government a slave whom he may value as from ten to fifteen hundred dollars, for the stipulated sum of one hundred and fifty dollars? Certainly not. All such laws must be unconstitutional and invalid.
But suppose that the slaver are purchased at what the owners thereof may deem a fair market . . . and delivered up to the constituted authorities appointed by congress, what constitutional, what moral, what religious right, has congress to remove “three millions” of her native—born children to a foreign country without their consent? She has no such power—she claims no such power—nor would it be right to exercise it if she had. Dr. Durbin has been long known as an able advocate of the claims of the Colonization Society, and is now one of its officers, the constitution of which says expressly, that “the object of this society is to remove to the western coast of Africa the free people of color with their own consent.” What conclusions will the enemies of this cause draw from the Doctor’s “plan” of expatriation!
As I wish to avoid all opprobrious language, I will admit that the word expatriation is not universally applicable to the free people of color generally, and even to the great majority of the “three millions of slaves;” but the plan does not propose to consult the predilection of any, but if they must be “removed from the country” without their consent, then surely humanity would dictate that we ought to make their privations as light as possible. Why not establish a colony in California for those who object to go to Africa? The climate, the soil, and the location, would all be propitious; our government could throw around them the shield of her protection, and if one seventh part of our whole population are to be removed, we could afford to spare the poor blacks a tract of wild land that has been obtained by conquest. This would prevent too great an influx of emigration to Africa, and evil that Governor Roberts, of Liberia, cautioned the Colonization Society against not many months since. Now as all the emigrants to Africa would be entitled to equal political and social rights and privileges, it may be . . . shown that it would not be safe for the government of the colony, nor for the health and comfort of the emigrants, to throw into it more than one hundred thousand ignorant slaves in one year: yet this number, unfortunately for the enterprise, would scarcely equal the annual increase of the slave population. But how is this six hundred millions of dollars to be raised? Why, by the “proceeds of the public lands, a judicious tariff in view of this object, and a reasonable debt, and, if necessary a direct tax to discharge the debt.”
The present apprehension is, that the war with Mexico will involve the country in a debt of . . . our to two hundred millions of dollars; besides this, nearly every commonwealth in the Union is in debt. The key-stone state alone (. . . this “plan” . . . ) is forty millions of dollars in debt. The indebtedness of the states may be estimated at from two to three hundred millions of dollars. Here, then, we may enumerate an indebtedness of ten hundred millions of dollars, to be accounted for by the people of this country!
The tariff of 1812 was not considered a “judicious tariff,” but a high one, and yet it never yielded to the general government, with the “proceeds of the public lands” included a revenue exceeding twenty-seven millions of dollars, while the expense of the government, in time of peace, amounted up to twenty-seven millions of dollars, while the expenses of the government, in time of peace, amounted up to twenty-five millions of dollars. The only remaining reliable source whence to raise this enormous sum, is “direct taxation,” to accomplish which we must establish an army of salaried . . . , who must encompass the whole land, from the . . . to the Del-Norte, who must be followed up in hot haste by another army of salaried collections, thus making the expenses of collecting this billion of dollars almost incredible. In view of all these considerations, we are compelled to pronounce this “plan to extinguish slavery” utterly impracticable. Your truly,
Philadelphia, Feb 18, 1847