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melancholy situation? If it holds forth nothing, why was it proposed ? Unless, indeed, to deceive you into a belief, that we were unwilling to listen to any terms of accommodation! But what is submitted to our consideration? We contend for the disposal of our property. We are told that our demand is unreasonable, that our assemblies may indeed collect our money, but that they must at the same time offer, not what your exigencies or ours may require, but so much as shall be deemed sufficient to satisfy the desires of a minister, and enable him to provide for favorites and dependants. A recurrence to your own treasury will convince you how little of the money, already extorted from us, has been applied to the relief of your burdens. To suppose that we would thus grasp the shadow, and give up the substance, is adding insult to injuries.
We have, nevertheless, again presented an humble and dutiful petition to our sovereign; and to remove every imputation of obstinacy, have requested his majesty to direct some mode, by which the united applications of his faithful colonists may be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation. We are willing to treat on such terms as can alone render an accommodation lasting, and we flatter ourselves that our pacific endeavors will be attended with a removal of ministerial troops, and a repeal of those laws, of the operation of which we complain, on the one part, and a disbanding of our army, and a dissolution of our commercial associations, on the other.
Yet conclude not from this that we propose to surrender our property into the hands of your ministry, or vest your parliament with a power which may terminate in our destruction. The great bulwarks of our constitution we have desired to maintain by every temperate, by every peaceable njeans; but your ministers, (equal foes to British and American freedom,) have added to their former oppressions an attempt to reduce us, by the sword, to a base and abject submission. On the sword, therefore, we are compelled to
rely for protection. Should victory declare in your favor, yet men, trained to arms from their infancy, and animated by the love of liberty, will afford neither a cheap nor easy conquest. Of this, at least, we are assured, that our struggle will be glorious, our success certain; since even in death we shall find that freedom which in life you forbid us to enjoy.
Let us now ask what advantages are to attend our reduction ? The trade of a ruined and desolate country is always inconsiderable, its revenue trifling; the expense of subjecting and retaining it in subjection certain and inevitable. What then remains but the gratification of an ill-judged pride, or the hope of rendering us subservient to designs on your liberty ?
Soldiers, who have sheathed their swords in the bowels of their American brethren, will not draw them with more reluctance against you. When too late you may lament the loss of that freedom, which we exhort you, while still in your power, to preserve.
On the other hand, should you prove unsuccessful ; should that connexion, which we most ardently wish to maintain, be dissolved; should your ministers exhaust your treasures, and waste the blood of your countrymen, in vain attempts on our liberty; do they not deliver you, weak and defenceless, to your natural enemies?
Since, then, your liberty must be the price of your victories; your ruin, of your defeat ; what blind fatality can urge you to a pursuit destructive of all that Britons hold dear?
If you have no regard to the connexion that has for ages subsisted between us; if you have forgot the wounds we have received fighting by your side for the extension of the empire; if our commerce is not an object below your consideration; if justice and humanity have lost their influence on your hearts; still motives are not wanting to excite your indignation at the measures now pursued: your wealth, your honor, your liberty are at stake.
Notwithstanding the distress to which we are reduced, we sometimes forget our own afflictions, to anticipate and sympathize in yours. We grieve that rash and inconsiderate councils should precipitate the de struction of an empire, which has been the envy and admiration of ages; and call God to witness! that we would part with our property, endanger our lives and sacrifice every thing but liberty, to redeem you from ruin.
A cloud hangs over your heads and ours; ere this reaches you, it may probably burst uponus; let us then, (before the remembrance of former kindness is obliterated,) once more repeat those appellations which are ever grateful in our ears; let us entreat heaven to avert our ruin, and the destruction that threatens our friends, brethren and countrymen, on the other side of the Atlantic,
SPEECH OF WILLIAM PINKNEY,
IN THE ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND, AT THEIR SES
SION IN 1788,
When the report of a committee of the House, favorable to a petition
for the relief of the oppressed slaves, was under consideration.
MR. SPEAKER, BEFORE I proceed to deliver my sentiments on the subject matter of the report, under consideration, I must entreat the members of this House to hear me with patience, and not to condemn what I may happen to advance in support of the opinion I have formed, until they shall have heard me out. I am conscious, sir, that upon this occasion, I have long established principles to combat, and deep rooted prejudices to defeat; that I have fears and apprehensions to silence, which the acts of former legislatures have sanctioned, and that, (what is equivalent to a host of difficulties,) the popular impressions are against me. But, if I am honored with the same indulgent attention, which the House has been pleased to afford me, on past subjects of deliberation, I do not despair of surmounting all these obstacles, in the common cause of justice, humanity and policy. The report appears to me to have two objects in view: to annihilate the existing restraints on the voluntary emancipation of slaves, and to relieve a particular offspring from the punishment, heretofore inflicted on them, for the mere transgression of their parents. To the whole report, separately and collectively, my hearty assent, my cordial assistance, shall be given. It was the policy of this country, sir, from an early period of colonization, down to the revolution, to encourage an importation of slaves, for purposes, which, (if conjecture may be indulged,) had been far better answered without their assistance. That this inhuman policy was a disgrace to the colony, a dishonor to the legislature, and a scandal to human nature, we need not, at this enlightened period, labor to prove. The generous mind, that has adequate ideas of the inherent rights of mankind, and knows the value of them, must feel its indignation rise against the shameful traffic, that introduces slavery into a country, which seems to have been designed by Providence, as an asylum for those whom the arm of power had persecuted, and not as a nursery for wretches, stripped of every privilege which heaven intended for its rational creatures, and reduced to a level with—nay, become themselves—the mere goods and chattels of their masters.
Sir, by the eternal principles of natural justice, no master in the state has a right to hold his slave in bondage for a single hour; but the law of the land, which, (however oppressive and unjust, however inconsistent with the great groundwork of the late revolution, and our present frame of government,) we cannot, in prudence, or from a regard to individual rights, abolish, has authorized a slavery, as bad, or perhaps worse than the most absolute, unconditional servitude that ever England knew, in the early ages of its empire, under the tyrannical policy of the Danes, the feudal tenures of the Saxons, or the pure villanage of the Normans. But, Mr. Speaker, because a respect for the peace and safety of the community, and the already injured rights of individuals, forbids a compulsory liberation of these unfortunate creatures, shall we unnecessarily refine upon this gloomy system of bondage, and prevent the owner of a slave from manumitting him, at the only probable period, when the warm feelings of benevolence, and the gentle workings of commiseration dispose him to the generous deed ? Sir, the natural character of Maryland is sufficiently VOL. v.