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of the Revolution
I desire you would Remember
the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than
your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands
of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.
If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we
are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves
bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
Abigail Adams to John Adams,
As to your extraordinary Code
of Laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our Struggle
has loosened the bands of Government every where. That Children
and Apprentices were disobedient--that schools and colleges
were grown turbulent--that Indians slighted their guardians
and Negroes grew insolent to their masters. But your letter
was the first intimation that another tribe more numerous and
powerful than all the rest were grown discontented....
Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine
system. Although they are in full force, you know they are little
more than theory. We dare not exert our power in its full latitude.
We are obliged to go fair, and softly, and in practice you know
we are the subject. We have
only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which
would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat,
I hope General Washington, and all our braves heroes would fight.
John Adams to Abigail Adams,
As to the doctrine of slavery
and the right of Christians to hold Africans in perpetual servitude,
and sell and treat them as we do our horses and cattle, that
(it is true) has been heretofore countenanced by the custom
formerly, but nowhere is it expressly enacted or established....But
whatever sentiments have formerly prevailed in this particular
or slid in upon us by the example of others, a different idea
has taken place with the people of America, more favorable to
the natural rights of mankind, and to that natural, innate desire
of liberty, which with Heaven (without regard to color, complexion,
or shape of noses-features) has inspired all the human race.
And upon this ground our Constitution of Government, by which
the people of this Commonwealth have solemnly bound themselves,
sets out with declaring that all men are born free and equal--and
that every subject is entitled to liberty, and to have it guarded
by the laws, as well as life and property--and in short is totally
repugnant to the idea of being born slaves.
Quock Walker Case, Massachusetts,
In the disposition of these
unfortunate people, there are two rational objects to be distinctly
kept in view. first. The establishment of a colony on the coast
of Africa, which may introduce among the aborigines the arts
of cultivated life, and the blessings of civilization and science.
By doing this, we may make to them some retribution for the
long course of injuries we have been committing on their population....
The second object...is to provide
an asylum to which we can, by degrees, send the whole of that
population from among us, and establish them under our patronage
and protection, as a separate, free and independent people....There
are in the HANDOUTed States a million and a half people of color
in slavery....Let us take twenty-five years for its accomplishment
within which time they will be doubled. Their estimated value
as property...at an average of two hundred dollars each, young
and old, would amount to six hundred millions of dollars, which
must be paid or lost by somebody. To this, add the cost by land
and sea to Mesurado [Liberia], a year's provision of food and
clothing, implements of husbandry and of their trades, which
will amount to three hundred millions more, making thirty-six
millions of dollars a year for twenty-five years....It cannot
be done this way.
There is, I think, a way it
can be done; that is, by emancipating the afterborn, leaving
them on due compensation, with their mothers, until their services
are worth their maintenance, and then putting them to industrious
occupations, until a proper age for deportation....The estimated
value of new-born infants is so low (say twelve dollars and
fifty cents) it would probably be yielded by the owner gratis,
and would thus reduce the six hundred millions of dollars, the
first head of expense, to thirty-seven millions and a half;
leaving only the expenses of nourishment while with the mother,
and of transportation. And from what funds are these expenses
to be furnished? Why not from that of the lands which have been
ceded by the states now needing this relief?
....The separation of infants
from their mothers...would produce some scruples of humanity.
But this would be straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.
Thomas Jefferson, 1824
1. What do
these quotations suggest about late l8th century American attitudes
2. What impact
do revolutionary ideals appear to have had on the role and status
of women and on attitudes toward slavery?