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Charles Stuart to Frederick Douglass, January 4, 1854


Letter from Captain Charles Stuart.

Lora, Jan. 4th, 1854.

of the most ordinary and destructive fea-
tures of human corruption, varying endlessly
in character and degree, is the glaring fact,
that the most vehement declaimers in favor
of liberty are often the grossest tyrants, in
power, and the most intolerant, in opinion,
of all others. Witness, in matters of power,
the United States of North America, as
slaveholders, slave-traders, and as kidnap-
pers; and, in matters of opinion, abolition-
ists, overflowing, as many are, with indig-
nant denunciations of each other, and so
desperately bent upon intruding their peculiar views of duty, that they will even go
from the United States to Great Britain in
order to enforce, if possible, their own views,
however pregnant with disunion, amongst the
friends of the slave—then, glorifying in their
self-idolized course, ascribe the blame of that
disunion to those who do nothing but resist
nobly and peaceably that gross and imperious
attempt. I greatly regret the reproaches to
which you have been lately subjected, and I
must lament the notice which you have felt
obliged to take of them, being fully persuad-
ed that living down such reproaches, and not
attempting to write them down, is at once
the best and the most effectual mode to ren-
der them innocuous.

On the question, whether or not the Con-
stitution of the United States is a pro-sla-
very document, my opinion is as
follows:—understanding that the Constitution fundamentally consists of the Declaration of Independence (its groundwork)—of the Constitution itself, together with its preamble as determined in 1788—and of the several articles subsequently embodied in it in 1791,
1798 and 1804.


I think it is not because its framers were
accomplished men, and were quite comp-
tent to express their meaning in fair language; because as worded by them, it contains no term equivalent to slave or slavery.
Because it was freely adopted by freemen,
yet glowing with the love of liberty—by
brave men, who dared honestly to reveal
their minds, and if such, were above the hypocricy and cowardice of disguising their
love of slavery, under terms appropriate to
freedom only. Because this Constitution
embodies all the noblest securities of national freedom, such as the writ of habeas corpus—trial by jury—the construction of treason—the rights of citizens—liberty of religion, of speech and of the press—the rights
of petition—security in property and person
—right of open and impartial trial accord-
ing to law, &c., &c. And because, while this
Constitution exists, every feature proper to
slavery must be as gross and lawless an outrage upon the Constitution of the United
States, as it is upon religion, humanity and

The existence of a contrary interpreta-
tion, in theory and practice, more and more daringly asserted, as powers abused has
grown old in sin, no more disproves this interpretation, than the abuses of tyrant pow-
ers, under whatever name, disproves the
righteous laws which unblushing selfishness,
and daring pride, delight in perverting to
their own nefarious purposes.

From 1834 to 1837, I travelled extensively
in the N. E. States, and usually carried
with me a miniature edition of the United
States Constitution; and when I met with
advocates of slavery, as I often did, frequent-
ly learned, talented and accomplished men,
who grounded their advocacy of slavery up-
on the Constitution—I commonly produced
my copy, and handing it to one or another
of them, seriously begged him to point out
to me a single sentence, or a single word,
which, being fairly interpreted by its own
context or phraseology, could be sanely
held to sanction slavery; and I never met
with one who could do so.

In my opinion, the recorded Constitution
of your country, emboding all its parts, up
to 1804, is worthy of the noblest nation on
earth; but, interpreted as it has been and is,
so as to sanction slavery and expose to
risk of imprisonment and fine all who prefer
the holy laws of God, and the fundamental


laws of their country, to the hypocrisies and
outrage of tyrant power, now rampant—so
interpreted, I say, and in actual practice, the
Constitution of the United States would be a
disgrace to the basest of nations and all who
plead for it, are traitors so everything which
is lovely and worthy of honor upon earth.

The people of the United States ought to
look, not to those who reject the Bible as the
divine standard of truth and duty—not to
those who spurn ecclesiastical organizations,
because so fearfully abused, mistaking the
abuse for the thing—not to those who would
substitute, under whatever pretence, an-
archy for government, by depriving govern-
ment of all those wholesome and lawful
terrors by which alone government can beneficially exist—not to those who assert the
supremacy over all other laws, of any and
of every man's sincere opinions—not to the
enemies of the Christian Sabbath, that is, of
a day, the seventh portion of time, but apart
for public worship and especial communion
with God;—but to those who seek, in the
holy love of God and man, to vindicate the
outraged Constitution of their country, and
to bring it back to the practical and noble
righteousness, which is embodied in
it—and not the less so, because for the time being,
hypocrisy and pride, ecclessiastical and civil
corruption unite in perverting it to the most
base and heinous purposes.

In the mean time, let the
abolitionists—that is, all who seek the immediate and thorough abolition of slavery in the United States, by feasible and lawful means—unite in pursuit of their noble and holy object,
without regard, in doing so to their several
peculiarities, just as they would unite in rescuing a neighbor's house and family from the flames—for what city or fire, with all its
agonies of death, could present to the upright heart of impartial love, such sacred
calls for aid, as are entering day and night
into the ears of Lord of Sabaoth, from
the far-stretching plantations, where the
cries of innocence are polluted, and of helpless blood poured out by tyrant force are
moaning? Nor, in doing so, need any man
compromise for a moment his own heart's
preferences—or cloak in others what be
deems their sins.



Stuart, Charles W.




Charles Stuart to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 20 January 1854. Contends that the Constitution is not a proslavery document; urges all abolitionists to work together.


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


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper