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Excerpt from the Richmond Enquirer (January 7, 1832)

In this article, published in the Richmond Enquirer on January 7, 1832, the editors argue that the House of Delegates take steps toward the emancipation of Virginia's enslaved people.

Transcription from Original

Richmond, VA., Saturday, Jan. 7.

Virginia Legislature.

We have different estimates made of the probable duration of the Session. One member tells you, they will be able to adjourn from the 1st to the 13th of February—Another extends it to the end of February—A third, from the 1st to the 10th March. We are inclined to side with the longest livers.—We admit that a business spirit seems to pervade their movements, but it cannot be concealed at the same time, that the great objects of the Session have not been brought forward to the House: nor even digested in the Committees.

The law concerning delinquent and forfeited lands is yet to undergo revision.—Some insist upon its modification—others, upon its repeal.

But the two great subjects before the Committees are those which relate to the colored population of the State, and to its Internal Improvements. Upon neither of these is the Committee yet prepared to report.

It is probable, from what we hear, that the Committee on the colored population will report some plan for getting rid of the free people of color—But is this all that can be done? Are we forever to suffer the greatest evil, which can scourge our land, not only to remain, but to increase in its dimensions? "We may shut our eyes and avert our faces, if we please," (writes an eloquent South Carolinian, on his return from the north a few weeks ago)—"But there it is, the dark and growing evil, at our doors; and meet the question we must, at no distant day. God only knows what it is the part of wise men to do on that momentous and appalling subject. Of this I am very sure, that the difference—nothing short of frightful—between all that exists on one side of the Potomac, and all on the other, is owing to that cause alone.—The disease is deep–seated—it is at the heart's core—it is consuming, and has all along been consuming our vitals, and I would laugh, if I could laugh, on such a subject, at the ignorance and folly of the politician, who ascribes that to an act of the government which is the inevitable effect of the eternal laws of nature. What is to be done. Oh! my God—I don't know, but something must be done."

Yes—something must be done—and it is the part of no honest man to deny it—of no free press to affect to conceal it. When this dark population is growing upon us; when every news census is but gathering its appalling members upon us; when within a period equal to that in which this Federal Constitution has been in existence, those numbers will increase to more than two millions within Virginia;—when our sister States are closing their doors upon our blacks for sale, and when our whites are moving Westwardly, in greater numbers than we like to hear of—When this, the fairest land on all this Continent, for soil and climate and situation combined, might become a sort of garden spot; if it were worked by the hands of white men alone, can we, ought we, to sit quietly down, fold our arms, and say to each other, "Well, well; this thing will not come to the worst in our day. We will leave it to our children and our grand-children, and great grand-children, to take care of themselves—and to brave the storm? Is this to act like wise men? Heaven knows we are no fanatics—we detest the madness which actuated the Amis des Noirs.—But something ought to be done—Means sure, but gradual, systematic, but discreet, ought to be adopted, for reducing the mass of evil, which is pressing upon the South, and will still more press upon her, the longer it is put off.—We ought not to shut our eyes, nor avert our faces. And though we speak almost without a hope, that the Committee or that the Legislature, will do anything, at the present session, to meet the question, yet we say now, in the utmost sincerity of our hearts, that our wisest men cannot give too much of their attention to this subject—nor can they give it too soon.

The Committee of Roads, and Internal Navigation are about to be actively employed on the Improvements of the State. They will probably report in the course of next week—and we presume, they will report in favor of a loan—but to what amount, and for what purposes first to be undertaken, it is yet impossible to conjecture. There are various views of the improvements that should be adopted. Mr. Crozet (whose repost we shall publish in our next) is for a Rail Road from this City to Lynchburg &c. The citizens of Lynchburg are said to be for a Canal—If the Rail Road be adopted, their capital will probably be withheld from the enterprise—because their town will not be the entrepot of the trade above and below.—It is yet unsettled whether the New River Rail Road ought to pass by Beaufort's Gap, or by Covington, &c. The citizens of Lynchburg no less solicitous on this subject, provided the Rail Road be not extended to Richmond.—One plan is to make Covington a sort of central point—from which Rail Roads may diverge to the New River, and to the Kanawha.—We have heard it asserted positively, that there will be no want of capital to carry on the Kanawha Rail Road, even if it should cost 7 or 8 millions—that the country thro' which it will pass is so rich, that it will become a great object to invest capital in the stock—and that is the State will give up or sell out its road in that direction, a Joint Stock Company will be found willing to take up the whole or most of the stock—and that foreign capitalists will freely rest their money in such an enterprise.—We will not discuss these plans—but of this we are assured, that now is the time to act—and that if we slumber on, we shall most deeply rue our inactivity.