Posted by: Democratic Thinker | January 29, 2010

Cassius M. Clay—Appeal No. II

The Fall of the True American

In 1845, Cassius M. Clay establishes a press in his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky—the first press in a slave state set up expressly for the purposes of an open debate on the issue of slavery. It meets resistance.

No. II.


Cassius Marcellus Clay.

AS my opponents, notwithstanding my sickness, will not wait to hear my plan of emancipation, and seem determined to precipitate measures to extremity, without giving me a hearing, and as they insist upon branding me as an “abolitionist”—a name full of unknown and strange terrors and crimes to the mass of our people—I will make a brief statement of my plan of emancipation. Although I regard slavery as opposed to natural right, I consider law, and its inviolate observance, in all cases whatever, as the only safeguards of my own liberty and the liberty of others. I therefore, have not given, and will not give, my sanction to any mode of freeing the slaves, which does not conform strictly to the Laws and Constitution of my state. And, as I am satisfied that there is no power under the present Constitution, by which slavery can be reached efficiently, I go for a Convention. In a Convention—which is politically omnipotent, I would say that every female slave, born after a certain day and year, should be free at the age of twenty-one. This, in the course of time, would gradually, and at last, make our state truly free. I would further say, that, after the expiration of thirty years, more or less, the state should provide a fund, either from her own resources, or from her portion in the public lands, for the purchase of the existing generation of slaves, in order that the white laboring portion of our community might be as soon as possible freed from the ruinous competition of slave labor. The funds should be applied after this manner: Commissioners shall be appointed in each county, who shall, on oath, value all slaves that shall be voluntarily presented to them for that purpose. To the owners of these slaves shall be issued, by the proper authorities, scrip, bearing interest at the rate of six per cent., to the amount of the value of their slaves; and to the redemption of said scrip this fund shall be applied, principle and interest. By this plan the present habits of our people would not be suddenly broken in upon, whilst, at the same time, we believe that it would bring slavery to almost utter extinction in our state, within the next thirty years.

With regard to the free blacks, I would not go for forcible expulsion, but I would encourage, by all the pecuniary resources that the state had to spare, a voluntary emigration to such countries and climates as nature seems particularly to have designed for them.

With regard to the political equality of the blacks with the whites, I should oppose in Convention their admission to the right of suffrage. As minors, women, foreigners, denizens, and divers other classes of individuals are, in all well regulated governments, forbidden the elective franchise, so I see no good reason why the blacks, until they become able to exercise the right to vote with proper discretion, should be admitted to the right of suffrage. “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” The time might come, with succeeding generations, when there would be no objection on the part of the whites, and none on account of disqualification of the blacks, to their being admitted to the same political platform; but let after generations act for themselves. The idea of amalgamation and social equality resulting from emancipation, is proven by experience to be untrue and absurd. It may be said by some, what right would a Convention have to liberate the unborn? They who ask equity, the lawyers say, themselves must do equity; and whilst the slaveholders have rights, they must remember the blacks also have rights; and surely, in the compromise which we have proposed between the slave and the slaveholder, the slaveholder has the lion’s share.

I have thus, in a very rambling, and feeble, unsatisfactory manner, given something of an outline of the plan which I had intended to present.

It may be that my paper has not been conducted in the most pacific manner, but is there not cause for mutual reproach between myself and the public, in which I am placed? And those who now most denounce me, should remember that my paper was denounced, even in advance, in the full avowal of all the incendiary purposes which my enemies now affect to impute to me. I am willing to take warning from friends or enemies for the future conduct of my paper, und whilst I am ready to restrict myself in the latitude of discussion of the question, I NEVER WILL, VOLUNTARILY, ABANDON A RIGHT OR YIELD A PRINCIPLE.


August 16, 1845.