January 13, 1832
The Great Question
On yesterday, Mr. Goode offered a resolution to discharge the Select Committee from the farther consideration of the branch of enquiry touching abolition, submitted to them. Mr. Randolph offered an amendment, which may be seen under the proper head; and these propositions have at once brought on a debate on the whole question of slavery, and its evils, physical and moral. That debate we shall lay before the reader as speedily as we may, and seldom have we heard one more ably conducted, and never one involving consequences of such deep, vital and enduring import.
When we, who have so long experienced the restraints imposed by public opinion on this subject; who have dared to exercise the freedom of the Press, guaranteed to us by the Godlike fathers of the Republic, but did not, could not, dare to breathe a syllable on a subject ever nearest our hearts, and of transcendent moment to the Country. When we, who know so well at how hopeless and impractical a distance, even the consideration of the subject was deemed six months ago—when we see the General Assembly of Virginia actually engaged, with open doors, in the discussion of the evils of slavery, and the propriety and practicability of abolition—we can hardly believe the evidence of our own senses. Yet so it is. Short sighted are we all, and none can tell what an hour may bring forth.
We foresee the agitation which is to pervade the Country. We anticipate the alarms which will be sounded, to the slave-holder. We know in advance, the declamation which will be addressed to his fears, his cupidity, and his passions. We are already informed of the unfounded designs charged and circulated. But, we trust the alarmists will fail in producing an excitement beyond what is favorable to an enlightened consideration of the situation of Virginia. We trust they will succeed in alarming no man for the rights and safety of his property—for we venture to say that there is not one man who proposes to disregard its sanctity. Above all, we hope that the alarmists will not [p. 107] succeed in raising a spirit of resistance to the results of the legislation, or produce a persuasion that the scope of legitimate legislation does not embrace an enquiry which touches the interest of every citizen of the Commonwealth. Deep interest must and ought to be felt.
Eric Foner, editor, Nat Turner (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), 106-107.