Commentary on Debate
Richmond Compiler, Oct. 22, 1832
Richmond Enquirer, Jan. 7
Richmond Whig, Jan. 13
Liberator, Jan. 14
Richmond Enquierer, Feb. 4
Gov. Floyd's Diary, Dec. 1831
Gov. Floyd's Diary, Jan. 1832
Gov. Floyd's Diary, Feb. 1832
Review of the Debates, 1832
DEBATES OVER SLAVERY
January 7, 1832
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 15th 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 [p. 105] 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 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 questions 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 could laugh, if I could laugh on such a subject, at the ignorance and folly of the politician, who ascribes that 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 new census is but gathering its appalling numbers 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 grandchildren, and great grandchildren, to take care of themselves—and to brave the storm”? Is this to act like wise men? Heaven knows! we are not fanatics—We detest the madness which actuated Amis des Noirs.—But something ought to be done—Means sure, but gradual, systematic, but [p. 106] 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 advert our faces. And though we speak almost without a hope, that the Committee or that the Legislature, will do any thing, at the present session, to meet this 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.
Eric Foner, editor, Nat Turner (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), 104-106.