1820, February 16: Spencer writes to President James Monroe about slavery and state rights, particularly over the issue of Missouri.

In addition to the desire to maintain Southern political ower, Virginians in particular were concerned about racial demography when they increasingly advocated the “diffusion” of slavery into the broad and seemingly limitless West. In 1820 there were over 450,000 blacks in Virginia, or 7.6 blacks for every 10 whites. Even sincere opponents of slavery could not begin to tolerate the thought of such a high percentage of blacks in a free biracial society. Judge Spencer Roane no doubt expressed a nearly unanimous white fear when he told President Monroe that Virginians “are averse to be damned up in a land of Slaves, by the Eastern people. They believe that these people [i.e., Northerners] have no right to interfere in our concerns, nor to throw combustibles among us. They confide in you to resist the menaced restriction [on the westward expansion of slavery] in whatever form it may appoach you.”

From “Letters of Spencer Roane, 1788-1822,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library 10 (1906), p. 175; cited in David Brion Davis’s magisterial work, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (Oxford University Press, 2006); and in Ammon, “The Richmond Junto” there is this: that beside the issue of slavery, Roane also couched his opposition in the language of state-rights doctrine; Roane wrote that opposition to slavery was not the true motivation of the Northern states, that instead it was a “lust for dominion and power.”