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1794: “Freedom And Slavery Cannot Long Exist Together”
The Americans Who Knew Better: II
Joseph Bloomfield, portrait, by Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Mémin, c. 1795.
“Freedom and Slavery cannot long exist together. An unlimited power over the time, labor, and posterity of our fellow creatures, necessarily unfits men for discharging the public and private duties of a Republic.” — Joseph Bloomfield and John McCree, Gazette of the United-States, May 24, 1794
Can slavery and freedom exist together? Of course not. It's a mortal contradiction, a time bomb the Founders left ticking for someone else to defuse. The race to save the Republic commenced almost immediately after its formation, a concerted effort to rectify the lie and fulfill the Founder's promise.
Is someone who believes that the two states of being could live in harmony capable of leading a Republic? No, not according to Joseph Bloomfield, a Revolutionary War veteran, New Jersey politician, and President of the New Jersey Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.
He questioned the paradox in 1794, likening the monarchy that we just overthrew to the institution of slavery we installed right after it as the same form of despotism, recreating the same evils:
"In vain has the tyranny of Kings been rejected, while we permit in our country a domestic despotism, which involves, in its nature, most of the vices and miseries that we have endeavored to avoid."
He called the scale of slavery in the US "degrading" and rightfully wondered how anyone could advocate for freedom when they see America "tolerating in its bosom a body of Slaves?"
Good questions, with few good answers, even back then.
Slavery was something Bloomfield knew wouldn’t get resolved in his lifetime. He died in 1823 but wrote 30 years prior that the effort to abolish slavery would "never cease, while there exists a single slave, in the United States.”
Read below to see his entire letter addressed to the fellow citizens of their new country.
To the CITIZENS of the UNITED STATES.
The address of the Delegates from the several Societies, formed in different parts of the United States, for promoting the abolition of slavery, in Convention assembled at Philadelphia, on the first day of January, 1794.
FRIENDS AND FELLOW CITIZENS,
UNITED to you by the ties of citizenship, and partakers with you of the blessings of a free government, we take the liberty of addressing you upon a subject, highly interesting to the credit and prosperity of the United States.
It is the glory of our country to have originated a system of opposition to the commerce in that part of our fellow-creatures, who compose the nations of Africa.
Much has been done by the citizens of some of the states to abolish this disgraceful traffic, and to improve the condition of those unhappy people, whom the ignorance, or the avarice of our ancestors had bequeathed to us as slaves; but the evil still continues, and our country is yet disgraced by laws and and practices, which level the creature man with a part of the brute creation.
Many reasons concur in persuading us to abolish domestic slavery in our country.
It is consistent with the safety of the liberties of the United States.
Freedom and Slavery cannot long exist together. An unlimited power over the time, labor, and posterity of our fellow creatures, necessarily unfits men for discharging the public and private duties of a Republic.
It is inconsistent with found policy; in exposing the states which permit it, to all those evils which insurrections, and the most resentful war have introduced into one of the richest islands in the West Indies.
It is unfriendly to the present exertions of the inhabitants of Europe, in favor of Liberty, What people will advocate freedom, with a zeal proportioned to its blessings, while they view the purest Republic in the World tolerating in its bosom a body of Slaves?
In vain has the tyranny of Kings been rejected, while we permit in our country a domestic despotism, which involves, in its nature, most of the vices and miseries that we have endeavored to avoid.
It is degrading to our rank as men in the scale of being. Let us use our reason and social affection for the purposes for which they were given, or cease to boast a pre-eminence over animals, that are unpolluted with our crimes.
But higher motives to justice and humanity towards our fellow-creatures remain yet to be mentioned.
Domestic slavery is repugnant to the principles of Christianity. It prostrates every benevolent and just principle of action in the human heart. It is rebellion against the authority of a Common FATHER. It is a practical denial of the extent and efficacy of the Death of a Common SAVIOUR It is an usurpation of the perogative of the GREAT SOVEREIGN of the Universe, who has solemnly claimed an exclusive property in the Souls of Men.
But if this view of the enormity of the evil of domestic slavery should not affect us, there is one consideration more which ought to alarm and impress us, especially at the present juncture.
It is a violation of a divine precept of universal justice, which has, in no instance, escaped with impunity.
The crimes of nations, as well as of individuals, are often designated in their punishments; and we conceive it to be no forced construction, of some of the calamities which now distress or impend our country, to believe that they are the measure of evils, which we have meted to others.
The ravages committed upon many of our fellow-citizens by the Indians, and the depredations upon the liberty and commerce of others of the citizens of the United States by the Algerines. both unite in proclaiming to us, in the most forcible language, “to loose the bands of wickedness, to break every yoke, to undo heavy burthens, and to let the oppressed go free."
We shall conclude this address by recommending to you,
First, To refrain immediately from that species of rapine and murder which has improperly been softened with the name of the African trade. It is Indian cruelty and Algerine piracy in another form.
Secondly, To form Societies, in every state, for the purpose of promoting the abolition of the slave-trade, of domestic slavery, the relief of persons unlawfully held in bondage, and for the improvement of the condition of the Africans, and their descendants amongst us.
The Societies, which we represent, have be held with triumph, the success of their exertions, In many instances, in favor of their African brethren; & in a full reliance upon the continuance of divine support and direction, they humbly hope, their labors will never cease, while their exists a single slave, in the United States.
Published by Order of the Convention.
JOSEPH BLOOMFIELD, President.
JOHN McCREE, Secretary
Gazette of the United-States, May 24, 1794
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