April 2, 1863: Does the south want to reopen the slave trade?

Slave ship

The Confederate constitution required abolition of the slave trade, but it appears that they’re dragging their feet. Surprisingly, secretary of state Judah Benjamin refuses to entertain abolition by treaty, which will surely hurt the prospects for recognition of the Confederacy by foreign governments.

New York Times


— The dispatch from the rebel Secretary of State to Mr. LAMAR, which we published yesterday, is a document of considerable significance. It relates to the prospective opening of the African slave-trade, and discloses the fact that the new Confederacy is likely to encounter a good deal of embarrassment from the susceptibility of foreign nations on this subject.

It will be remembered by all who are conversant with the political history of the past ten or fifteen years, that the prohibition of the African slave-trade by the National Congress was always held up by Southern extremists as among the leading causes of complaint against the Union. While the North and West were constantly receiving enormous supplies of labor by immigration, the South was cut off from that resource by law. In their commercial conventions and through their leading periodicals, Southern statesmen constantly insisted on the reopening of the slave-trade as absolutely essential to the prosperity of the South. When secession was resolved upon, it was seen that the hostility of foreign nations to the restoration of this trade would be too great to be successfully resisted or safely defied, and the agents of the rebellion were therefore instructed everywhere to deny that any purpose of reopening it was entertained: and a clause was put into the Confederate Constitution imposing upon the Confederate Government the duty of making laws for its prohibition.

It seems now that foreign nations, when the subject of recognition is broached at all, insist upon treaty stipulations against the reopening of the slave-trade; and such stipulations the rebel Government is not prepared to give. Mr. BENJAMIN enters into a long argument to show, in the first place, that the Government has no power, under the Constitution, to enter into any such engagements, — and secondly, that they are not necessary. Whether these assurances will satisfy the foreign Powers by which this point has been raised, remains to be seen. But the letter of Mr. BENJAMIN makes one thing very clear, — and that is, that the Confederate Government does not intend to trammel, by any treaty stipulations whatever, the future action of the Slave States on this subject.

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