Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Slavery and the Making of AmericaPicture of the first black U.S. Senator and representatives
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Freedom & Emancipation
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight Imagining Freedom Personal Narratives Original Docs
Original Documents Freedom & Emancipation

Memorial of the American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery
1804
Courtesy of National Archives, Center for Legislative Archives
return to main documents page
Photo of an excerpt of a letter written by the American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery
view full-sized image
Document Description
With the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, the U.S. faced new questions regarding slavery and its expansion. In this letter drawn up by the American Convention for promoting the abolition of slavery, members entreat the Senate and House of Representatives to prohibit the importation of slaves into the Territory.

Transcript
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congres[s] assembled --

The American Convention for promoting the abolition of Slavery and improving the condition of the African Rae beg leave respectfully to propose for your consideration the utility and propriety of passing such Laws as shall prohibit the importation of Slaves, into the Territory of Louisiana, lately ceded to the United States.

Your memorialists feel themselves deeply impressed with this important Subject, and they deem it this duty to solicit most earnestly your serious attention to the proposition. They believe that Wisdom and sound Policy are so intimately united by their Eternal Parent, that man cannot separate them with impunity. If Wisdom urge the performance of any particular Act, if it command the formation and establishment of any specific Law, the soundest Policy will be evinced by obedience to that injunction.

True Virtue, the Offspring of Wisdom, teaches man to love his fellow Man, and enjoins him to perform all that may be within the compass of his Abilities, for the general happiness of his Species. When national Governments comply with this benevolence and sublime Law, they become the Providential Instruments of National blessings, but when they oppose or disregard its dictates, their Constituents must necessarily feel, sooner or later, all the Calamities which follow such Oppression or Neglect.

Our Ancestors have, unhappily, entailed on some of our States, the wil[l]s of Slavery. Many of our fellow Citizens in those States we believe are mournfully sensible of the magnitude of their Burtherns, but they know and feel that Man may commit Error with more facility than he can eradicate its consequences. Your Memorialists entreat you reflect on -- to consider with impartial attention, the dangers and difficulties before you, and beseech you with deep concern, to preserve the Country, whose regulations depend on your Wisdom, from similar calamities.

They also respectfully suggest to you, that while the Constitution of the United States declares all Men equally entitled to Liberty, they cannot conceive our Government as acting consistently with its declarations, if it shall, in any instance, authorize Man to enslave unoffending Man, In compliance with that distinguishing Principle of our National Constitution a former Congress judged it expedient to introduce among its regulations for the government of the Northwestern Territory, a provision resembling that which your Memorialists now suggest to you.

There is another Consideration to which your Memorialists feel themselves bound to call your attention. While the Governments of Europe are shaken by civil discord, or surrounded by the incalculable cruelties and horrors of national Warfare, a beneficial and overruling Providence has been pleased to preserve for our Country, the blessings of Peace, to grant us new proofs of his goodness, and to place us in a condition of prosperity unrivalled in the records of History. Does it not become the duty of a Nation so crowned with the blessings of Peace and Plenty and Happiness to manifest its gratitude to the whole World by acts of Justice and Virtue? For the true honor of our country -- from benevolence towards the future possessors of our newly acquired Soil, your Memorialists hope you will hear and grant their request. And with all the respect which is due to the Representatives of a free People, they subscribe themselves cordially your friends and fellow Citizens --

Signed by order and on behalf of the convention
Matthew Franklin Pres.

Philadelphia, Jan[uar]y 13th 1804
email this page to a friend
About the Series K-12 Learning Feedback Support PBS