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Celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation: Madison and Monroe



By 1810 the population of the US was 7,239,881; 1,191,362 were slaves.

Census enumerators were asked to include categories: name of head of household, number of free white males and females in various age categories, number of other free persons except Indians not taxed, number of slaves and town or district and county of residence.

Presidents and their constituencies continued to grapple with the issues, exploring a variety of “answers.”

James Madison (VA 1809-1817) owned slaves all his life. In 1819 he stated, “A general emancipation of slaves ought to be 1. gradual. 2. equitable & satisfactory to the individuals immediately concerned. 3. consistent with the existing & durable prejudices of the nation….To be consistent with existing and probably unalterable prejudices in the U.S. freed blacks ought to be permanently removed beyond the region occupied by or alloted to a White population.”

By 1833 Madison had become president of the American Colonization Society, moving free blacks to what is now Liberia.

In 1801 James Monroe (VA-1817-1825) stated, “We perceive an existing evil which commenced under our Colonial System, with which we are not properly chargeable, or if at all not in the present degree, and we acknowledge the extreme difficulty of remedying it.”

Monroe had been governor of Virginia during Gabriel’s Conspiracy, an abortive slave uprising in the state. The slaves who reported the conspiracy were purchased by the government and freed as a reward.

During his presidency both Haiti and Mexico abolished slavery. Monroe commented, “(The international slave trade) is an abominable practice, against which nations are now combining, and it may be presumed that the combination will soon become universal. If it does the traffic must cease, if it does not it will still be carried on, unless the nations favorable to the suppression unite to crush it, under flags hose powers tolerate it, which would in effect be to
make war on those powers.” (1821)

Monroe signed a treaty (1824) with Great Britain that would have declared African slave trade a form of piracy, making it easier to fight the trade supposedly without making it easier for foreign navies to stop and search U.S. ships. He made a plea to the Senate but did not convince them to ratify. “Should this convention be adopted, there is every reason to believe that it will be the commencement of a system destined to accomplish the entire abolition of the slave trade…(Other nations will follow the U.S. and U.K.) The crime will then be universally proscribed as piracy, and the traffic be suppressed forever.”

For the years 2012-2013, Our Story, Inc. will be be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Project and its legacy in Nevada. This article is part of a series that will be published during that time. Please feel free to circulate and share (credited), comment or submit your own articles.
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