Which U.S. Presidents Owned Slaves?

Franklin Pierce

1835:  [In his state, New Hampshire, there was] “not one in a hundred who does not entertain the most sacred  regard for the rights of their Southern [slaveowning] brethren – nay not one in five hundred who would not have  those rights protected at any and every hazard.  There is not the slightest disposition to interfere with any rights  secured by the constitution.”  When an abolitionist newspaper in New Hampshire published a petition  signed by far more than one-in-five-hundred, Pierce responded that he meant voters – not women and  children, who he says, made up most of the petition signers.  (Nichols,  p84-5.)

 1838:  "Would any man  here abridge the liberty of speech, or assail the freedom of the press?  I think not...  I  oppose the Abolitionists, for the very reason that I entertain a sacred regard for these in common with all other rights  secured by the Constitution...  the citizen of New Hampshire is no more responsible, morally or politically for the  existence and continuance of this domestic institution (Slavery) in Virginia or Maryland, than he would be  for the existence of any similar institutions in France or Persia.  Why?  Because these are matters over which the  States...retained the sole and exclusive control, and for which they are alone responsible...  It is admitted that  domestic slavery exists here [Washington, DC] in its mildest form.  That part of the population are bound together  by friendship and the nearer relations of life.  They are attached to the families in which they have  lived from childhood.  They are comfortably provided for, and apparently contented."  (Congressional Globe 1838.  v6n1 p54)

 1853: From his inaugural address: “I believe that involuntary servitude as it exists in different states of this Confederacy, is recognized by the  constitution.  I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the states where it exists are  entitled to  efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions….  I fervently hope that the question is at test, and that no  sectional or ambitious or fanatical excitement may again threaten the durability of our  institutions.”   (Nichols.  p235-6.)

 1855:  “If the passionate rage of fanaticism and partisan spirit did not force the fact upon our attention, it would be  difficult to believe that any considerable portion of the people of this enlightened country could have so  surrendered  themselves to a fanatical devotion to the supposed interests of the relatively few Africans in the United States to  totally abandon and disregard the interests of 25,000,000 Americans.”  (Nichols.  P 433)

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