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Alfred G. Campbell to Frederick Douglass, February 27, 1849


Trenton, N.J., Feb. 27, 1849.

Frederick Douglass:ーI see in your last STAR a call from a correspondent for "more light" in regard to a petition recently presented by the undersigned to the Legislature of New Jersey, asking a secession of this State from the American Union. In answer to the call, I will briefly state the reason presented in that petition for the proposed secession.

1. Because the colored people of this State, solely on account of their color, cannot visit the Southern States without being subject to fine, imprisonment, or enslavement for life, in disregard of that clause of the U.S. Constitution which declares, "The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."

2. Because liberty of speech or of the press, in opposition to slavery, can be exercised by our citizens who visit the Southern States, only with imminent peril to their lives.

3. Because it is morally degrading, politically disastrous, and a glaring paradox for a State glorying in its freedom to remain in partnership with States glorying in slavery.

4. Because by the alliance of the North with the South, the slave power has already been enabled to acquire large territories, and is now reasonably supposed to be plotting for the annexation of Cuba, for the extension and perpetuation of its supremacy.

5. But especially because, by the compromises of the U.S. Constitution, Southern slaveholders are allowed a slave representation in Congress; the right to hunt and seize fugitive slaves on the soil of New Jersey; and to demand, in cases of emergency, the aid of New Jersey in the suppression of any attempt by their slaves to obtain that freedom which is their natural and moral right, but of which they are most wickedly and unjustly deprived; and so long as the people of this State consent to these compromises, so long will they be morally and politically responsible for all the cruelties and horrors of the slave system.

These reasons, you will perceive, are the same as those for which the Massachusetts Legislature was petitioned to adopt a similar course. They are to my mind conclusive and satisfactory. If the State becomes a participant in the maintenance of slavery, and makes herself responsible for its extension and perpetuity, by continuing a member of the Union, it is certain that she should secede from the Union, and thus, in some degree, cease to do evil.

That she is still criminal in other mattersーthat she still may be considered, to some extent, a slaveholding State (though professing to be free, having changed her slavery, in name at least, to apprenticeship)ーthat she still refuses to treat her colored citizens as men, and closes her seminaries, colleges and universities, the bar and her legislative halls, against themーdo not, in my opinion, constitute valid objections to petitioning her to withdraw her support from the "peculiar institution," and to cease acting longer as "a watch-dog for the Southern plantations."

At the time of the presentation of my petition, the Legislature had before it several memorials, praying that the rights of citizenship (the elective franchise and eligibility to office) might be conferred upon the colored men of the State. These two petitions pointed out the way, and afforded an opportunity to the State of "shaking off the old man and his deeds," by acting in accordance with their prayer. She chooses, however, to occupy her old position, and while she refused to receive the one, declined granting the reasonable requent of the other. Thus she has shown her faith by her works, and that faith disentitles her to the confidence or love of any friend of liberty or humanity.

Truly yours,

Alfred G. Campbell.


Campbell, Alfred G.




Alfred G. Campbell to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: NS, 16 March 1849. Advocates that New Jersey secede from pro-slavery Union.


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


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