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LETTER VIII.

TO THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.

STATE OF NEW YORK, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,

Albany, October 8, 1841.

SIR: In your letter of the 3d of May last, after reviewing at some length a discussion which had previously engaged your predecessors and myself, you informed me that the general assembly of Virginia had, on the 13th of March last, passed an act entitled "An act to prevent the citizens of New York from carrying slaves out of the commonwealth of Virginia, and to prevent the escape of persons charged with any crime." You observed, also, that the general assembly of Virginia, being very solicitous to maintain friendly relations between that commonwealth and New York, had taken care that the law should not go into effect until the 1st of May, 1842; and had authorized the governor to suspend it, by his proclamation, whenever he should be officially informed that the causes had ceased which required the enactment. You defined those causes to be, the passage of a law of this state extending the trial by jury, and the refusal of the executive of New York to surrender three supposed fugitives from justice. You showed, also, that the general assembly required the state of New York to remove those causes, by repealing the obnoxious law, and surrendering the alleged offenders. In my reply, I observed that Virginia could not have forgotten, that, like herself, New York was an independent state; that our sister-state must therefore have foreseen, when adopting a hostile law, that thenceforth the original question must be a subordinate one, and that its further discussion must be deferred so long as that injurious act should remain in force; and that although New York, for reasons equally consistent with her selfrespect and evincive of her devotion to the Union, would forbear to complain; yet it must be apparent that she could no longer consent to be a respondent.

Having now the honor of acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 24th of July last, I find that you have been pleased to express therein an opinion that there was some inconsistency in my taking the ground thus assumed, after having neglected to do so when writing my letter to your predecessor, the Honorable John M. Patton. The law of Virginia was passed on the 13th of March. Its enactments were specially, and even exclusively, directed against citizens and inhabitants of New York. It was understood that the object of the act was to constrain, or if you please, to induce, New York to comply with certain demands, or, if you prefer the expression, certain wishes, of Virginia. The act allowed to New York a season for reconsideration, and specified a form in which atonement could at any time be rendered acceptable. Unacquainted with the courtesies customarily practised by states when adopting incipient measures of retaliation, I permitted myself to expect official information of so extraordinary a measure an error into which it was more natural I should fall, because the parties in the proceeding were members of one family, and Virginia had, during a long correspondence, constantly given assurances of her eminent satisfaction with that relationship, and her earnest desire that it might be harmonious and enduring. No such official information was received, although the executive of New York was honored by the chief-magistrate of her sister-state with communications relating to kindred subjects, and bearing dates three days, and nine days, after the law had passed. The imperfect and unreliable information which the public newspapers of the city of New York conveyed to me was, after a lapse of several days, submitted to the legislature; but I thought proper to delay making any communication on the subject to the state of Virginia, until authentic, if not official information concerning the law should arrive. Your letter of the 3d of May furnished the information which has been recited; and this was the only direct or authentic information received, previously to the date of the communication I had the honor to address to you. In your letter now before me, you disavow having had any intention, when writing your first communication, of giving me the official information which I extracted from it. It would seem, therefore, if I have erred in selecting the moment for announcing to the executive of Virginia that the original question had become subordinate, that the fault I have

committed consists in having made that communication prematurely, instead of having delayed it so long as to afford to Virginia just cause of complaint. If, however, you shall still be of opinion that there has been culpable procrastination, I trust it may be excused, if not upon the ground that prudence counselled delay, at least upon the consideration that it was required by respect for the state you represent.

The law of Virginia declares that no vessel owned, commanded, or navigated, in whole or in part, by any citizen or resident of this state, or by any other person than a citizen or inhabitant of Virginia, and bound to any port in New York, shall depart from Virginia until she shall have been inspected by an officer of that commonwealth to ascertain that no slave, no person held to labor or service, and no person charged with crime in Virginia, shall be concealed on board. The act imposes a fine of five hundred dollars for leaving a port without a certificate of such inspection, and requires a bond from each captain or owner in the penalty of one thousand dollars, with inhabitants of Virginia as sureties, and a condition to pay five hundred dollars for any such fugitive from justice, and the value of any slave found on board of the vessel. The act directs that the fees of inspection, together with other costs and expenses, shall be charged upon the vessel; and provides that in any prosecution arising out of the law, it shall be presumed that the party accused is a citizen or resident of New York, until he shall affirmatively prove his title to the immunities and privileges of a citizen of that commonwealth.

It is much regretted that you have not thought it important to advert to some doubts concerning the constitutionality of the law, which were suggested in my last letter. The constitution of the United States secures to Congress the power of regulating not only foreign trade, but commerce between the states, and guaranties to the citizens of each state all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states. The law of Virginia seems to me to be an attempt to regulate commerce between New York and a sister-commonwealth, and to deprive citizens of this state, and of other states, of immunities and privileges conferred upon citizens of Virginia. The law avows a design to oblige the constituted authorities of New York to acquiesce in such a construction of the constitution and laws of the United

States as Virginia prescribes, and to conform the legislation and the executive action of this state to that construction. It need hardly be observed, that if Virginia can make discriminating commercial regulations for such a purpose, New York and any other state may exercise like powers for similar purposes. If such were indeed the case, the establishment of the constitution, instead of securing that "more perfect union" contemplated by its founders, would produce disorder, and end in anarchy.

I will not advert to the many peculiar reasons why this state can not acquiesce in any unconstitutional assault upon her commerce by a sister-state, nor further dwell upon the aggressive character of the measures Virginia has seen fit to adopt, than to remind you that whenever a foreign state has unlawfully claimed the right to search American vessels, New York has been at least as firm as her sister-states in resisting so odious an assumption. And although she is not, in this case, at liberty to retaliate, because the pretension is set up by a sister-state, yet New York will never be able to discover that that pretension ought to be allowed.

At the present state of the proceedings between the states, it will not be expected that I should reply at length to such parts of your letter as relate to other topics than the law of Virginia. It might be conceded that Virginia has manifested unvarying forbearance; although she has constantly insisted upon demands which this state regarded as unconstitutional; has, one day, refused to comply with a request admitted to be just and legal, and, on another, claimed especial consideration for revoking that refusal, has adopted measures which seem calculated to harass the commerce and annoy the citizens of this state, and has appealed to other states in a manner which tended to stir up contention in the family of states; yet it must be obvious that even then, inasmuch as the parties are equal, if a reconciliation is to be accomplished, Virginia ought to make the first advance. Even if it were conceded that the recorder of the city of New York has erred in his adjudication upon the case of Edward Johnson and others; and were it granted that to permit, or to persuade, a person held in slavery to escape and to aid him in regaining his liberty, was not only as criminal as larceny, but was in fact synonymous with it; and were it further yielded that while the people of New York refused toleration to any form of human slavery, and maintained a sound, efficient, and equal VOL. II.-33

administration of justice, they were rightly accused of a disposition to steal the slaves of the citizens of Virginia, and offering impunity to criminals of every grade; and were it conceded that a being of human substance, form, and image, endowed with faculties, propensities, and passions, common to our race, and having the same ultimate destiny, could, by the force of any human constitution of laws, be converted into a chattel, or a thing, in which another being like himself could have property; and if to all these concessions it was added that a law of this state which in no way interfered with the right of a master, under the constitution and laws of the United States, to institute proceedings in the federal courts and before federal magistrates, to recover a fugitive from service, nor with the proceedings of such tribunals in hearing, examining, and deciding upon, such claims, was unconstitutional; yet after all these concessions, were made, none of which, however, can in any sense be granted, it would still remain to be shown that Virginia has a right to pass an unconstitutional law affecting citizens of New York, because New York had enacted a law alleged to be injurious to her sisterstate. It might even be admitted, as you have erroneously supposed, that the privilege of trial by jury had not been allowed in courts in this state to fugitives from service from other states, until Virginia had renewed her demand for the surrender of certain fugitives from justice, when in truth the right of trial by jury had always been enjoyed in such cases in this state, and the law to which Virginia objects was only declaratory of that right, and amendatory of the form used on such occasions; and yet it is not perceived that this concession could, in any manner, impair the just objections of this state to the extraordinary measures which Virginia has adopted.

After every one of your respected predecessors protested against the opinions necessarily expressed by me, in a discussion commenced and insisted upon by Virginia, and now after you have substantially informed me that Virginia insisted upon an abandonment of those opinions more than a surrender of the fugitives, I confess it seems somewhat extraordinary that the plain exposition and renewed declaration of those opinions, contained in my former letter, should be pronounced gratuitous.

The august Congress of statesmen who laid the foundation of the constitution, most emphatically declared that all men were

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