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B. W. Richmond to Frederick Douglass, March 22, 1848


Chardon, Geauga Co., O.
March 22d, 1848.

My Dear $750 ー
I saw it recently stated in some paper, that the land of Ireland was owned by 23,000 land-holders, and I propose to draw a comparison between land monopoly in Ireland and the United States. In looking over the facts and figures, I find the following results:
Ireland has 32,000 square miles and 23,000 owners, giving to each, one and a third square miles, it has 20,000,000 acres, which gives each landlord a fraction less than 900 acres. The Slave States of the United States, have about 727,000 square miles of territory and about 300,000 slave-holders, which gives each over two square miles. They have about 500,000,000 of acres, which gives each slave-holder over 1,500 acres.
I have not calculated fractions in this estimate, but have given what is very nearly the facts in fractions. Making all allowance for the fact, that there may be in the slave States some small land-holdersーsay 200,000, yet we have an aggregate amount of land in each tyrant's hands of over 1000 acres. The vast mass of land in those States, must of necessity be in the hands of the slave-holders.
The slave States have about 8,000,000 of population scattered over this area of land; the States Constitutions of most if not all the slave States, render it just about impossible for any thing but a large slave-holder and land-holder to reach their local legislatures; this is a well known and undeniable fact, and what is the result upon our U.S. Senate?ーThese legislatures appoint these Senators, and hence we have one-half or more of that august dignified body, made up of actual slave-holdersーin fact none but a slave-holder has ever found a seat in that body. The United States Constitution first makes a league with these manholders, and authorizes them to appoint two Senators to the U.S. Senateーtheir local legislatures are the appointing body; this body is so constructed by the State legislature, the appointing body, that none but a slave-holder can find his way thither.
What gives existence to the U.S. Senate? The U.S. Constitution. Who authorizes the State Legislatures of slave States to appoint Senators to Congress? The U.S. Constitution. What are those State Legislatures? Slave-holding bodies and nothing else. What is the U.S. Senate? A pro-slavery slave-holding body, made up of over one half actual slave-holders and the other half pro-slavery men, with rare exceptions. Who, then is responsible for this pro-slavery character of this vital branch of the general government? The Constitution plainly, for here it has its originーthis is its father. Well, how is it with the House of Representatives? this body originates in the U.S. Constitution, but is begotten in a different way. This political beast with seven heads and ten horns and fifteen tails, is produced by the direct cogitations of the Constitution with the people; and how does it look politically when born? Why from the known slave-holding character of its father, with that political renegade the North for a mother it comes to light, and lo! one-half of the child has a bloated face and rowdy mien, and holds in its right hand a huge bull whip, wielding it with good effect over the other half which is a paralytic, pale or purple in the face crying out with cholic at every move of the other half; in plain language, this body is composed of one-half slave-holders from the South and the other half dough-face political gamblers, with here and there an exception, cringing, smitten with fear and trembling at every crack of the driver's whipーdestitute of even an infant small dose of vitality to impel its blood or give it one healthy pulsation of political life.
At this point, friend Douglass, I wish to pause and ask what is this "slave power" of which we hear so much? is it an entity or not, has it any tangibility, or is it some ghost or spirit from the "vasty deep" summoned up by the hysterical fears of Northern fanatics and sent out to vex and harass the nation? or is it a being with political powers, having a vigorous vitality with a black heart beating in its bosom, sending streams of withering death and consuming pestilence into every vein and artery of the body politic, leaving rottenness in every bone, tainting every muscle, paralysing every nerve, smiting the lungs with fever, and the brain with congestion, rotting the skin with burning blains and dissolving the whole mass with a pestiferous putrescence, sloughing gangrene and fetid ulcers? Enter if you will the District of Columbia, and wend your way to the Capitol, enter the hall of Representatives and there you will find a body which you may call the lower extremities of the "slave power;" enter the other end of the Capitol and in the Senate Chamber you will find a body of men you may call the body, stomach, lungs and heart of this "slave power" ー into another corner of the Capitol, you will find the President acting the part of head and brains, and will to the whole. From this trinity in crime and infamy issue all the slave acts of the nation, all the laws which weigh down the slave in his chains and render his dungeon a den of despair. From these three powers go forth other foul spirits, infesting like so many locusts, every foreign court crying in the ears of Kings, and Queens, and Emperors,ーtobacco! cotton! sugar! and rice!ーFrom these bodies comes the judicial courts, bending and warping all law to the side of wrong and pressing the life-blood from the heart of the poor slave.ーFrom these issue our armies commanding to kill and smiting commerce with decay, eating out the fruits of industry, giving intellectual light and moral death to 300,000 of men holding the church in its grasp, sending her own people in a mass to a destiny of ignorance, stupidity and barbarism, and an inheritance of infamy and shame.
This "slave power" standing with one foot on the land and the other on the neck of your brothers, and her hands fast clutching the throat of the North, wields at its will the church and the state; the purse and the sword. It can never be said, that our Constitution gives no sanction to slavery till it is shown that it does not organize the government under which we live,ーtill it is shown that Congress does not originate in itーtill it is shown that the President is not the legitimate executive under it, in fact until it is shown that the political slave-holding influence of the land monopolists of the South, put forth through the three branches of our government, does not have its origin in this very same Constitution which ushers them into political being.
Yours for men and land,


Richmond, B. W.




B. W. Richmond to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: NS, 28 April 1848. Denounces proslavery attitude of executive, legislative, and judicial branches of American government.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


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