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THE JEFFERSONIAN ORDINANCE OF 1784.
remained for some years thereafter, unceded to the Union by North Carolina and Georgia. This entire territory, ceded and to be ceded, was divided prospectively by the Ordinance into embryo States, to which names were given; each of them to receive, in due time, a temporary or territorial government, and ultimately to be admitted into the Confederation of States upon the express assent of two-thirds of the preceding States; but both their temporary and their permanent governments were to be established on these fundamental conditions:
"1. That they shall forever remain a part of the United States of America.
"2. That, in their persons, property, and territory, they shall be subject to the government of the United States, in Congress assembled, and to the Articles of Confederation, in all those cases in which the original States shall be so subject.
"3. That they shall be subject to pay a part of the Federal debts, contracted or to be contracted; to be apportioned on them by Congress, according to the same common rule and measure by which apportionments thereof shall be made on the other States.
"4. That their respective governments shall be in republican forms, and shall admit no person to be a citizen who holds an hereditary title.
"5. That after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty."
The Ordinance concluded as follows:
"That all the preceding articles shall be formed into a charter of compact; shall be duly executed by the President of the United States, in Congress assembled, under his hand and the seal of the United States; shall
be promulgated, and shall stand as fundamental conditions between the thirteen original States and those newly described, unalterable but by the joint consent of the United States, in Congress assembled, and of the
1 By the Articles of Confederation, two or more delegates were required to be present to
particular State within which such alteration is proposed to be made."
On the 19th of April, Congress took up this plan for consideration and action, and Mr. Spaight of N. C. moved that the fifth proposition above quoted, prohibiting Slavery after the year 1800, be stricken out of the Ordinance; and Mr. Read of S. The ques C. seconded the motion. tion was put in this form: "Shall the words moved to be stricken out stand?" and on this question the Ays and Noes were required and taken, with the following result:
N. HAMP...Mr. Foster........ay,
R. ISLAND..Mr. Ellery. .ay,
CONNECT... Mr. Sherman..
NEW YORK.Mr. De Witt... ..ay, Ay.
N. JERSEY..Mr. Dick.
..ay, ...ay, .ay,
Mr. Montgomery..ay, › Ay.
Mr. Stone.. ..no,
N. CAROLI..Mr. Williamson...ay, Divided.
The votes of members were sixteen for Mr. Jefferson's interdiction of Slavery to seven against it, and the States stood recorded six for it to three against it. But the Articles of Confederation required an affirmative vote of a majority of all the States to sustain a proposition; and thus the restriction failed through the absence of a member from New Jersey, rendering the vote of that State null for
cast the vote of a State. New Jersey, therefore, failed to vote.
want of a quorum. Had Delaware | Ohio," excluding, by its silence, the territories south of that river, which were expressly brought within the purview and operation of Mr. Jefferson's Ordinance-those territories not having, as yet, been ceded by the States claiming them respectively as their peculiar possessions. Mr. Dane's ordinance embodies many provisions originally drafted and reported by Mr. Jefferson in 1784, but with some modifications. The act concludes with six unalterable Articles of Perpetual Compact between the embryo States respectively and the Union: the last of them in these words:
been then represented, she might, and might not, have voted in the affirmative; but it is not probable that Georgia, had she been present, would have cast an affirmative vote. Humanly speaking, we may say that the accident—a most deplorable and fatal accident of the absence of a member from New Jersey, prevented the adoption, at that time, of a proposition which would have confined Slavery in our country within the limits of the then existing States, and precluded all reasonable probability of subsequent contentions, collisions, and bloody strife touching its extension.
The Jeffersonian Ordinance, thus shorn of its strength-the play of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet omitted-after undergoing some further amendments, was finally adopted, four days later: all the delegates but those from South Carolina voting in its favor.
In 1787, the last Continental Congress, sitting in New York, simultaneously with the Convention at Philadelphia which framed our present Constitution, took further action on the subject of the government of the western territory, raising a Select Committee thereon, of which Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, was Chairman. That committtee reported, July 11, "An Ordinance for the government of the Territories of the United States northwest of the
As the American people of our day evidently presume themselves much wiser than their grandfathers, especially in the science of government, the more essential portion of this celebrated Ordinance of 1787 is hereto appended, as affording a standard of comparison with the latest improvements in the art of Constitutionmaking. It reads:
"And for extending the fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty, which form
"There shall be neither Slavery nor invol untary servitude in the said Territory, other wise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the parties shall be duly convicted."
To this was added, prior to its passage, the stipulation for the rendition of fugitives from labor or service, which either had just been, or was just about to be, embodied in the Federal Constitution, then being framed; and in this shape the entire Ordinance was adopted, July 13, by the unanimous vote of the States then represented in Congress, including Georgia and the Carolinas; no effort having been made to strike out the inhibition of Slavery. Mr. Robert Yates, of New York, voted alone in the negative on the passage of the Ordinance, but was overborne by the vote of his two colleagues, then present.'
the basis whereon these Republics, their laws and constitutions, are erected; to fix and establish these principles as the basis of all laws, constitutions, and governments, which forever hereafter shall be formed in the said Territory; to provide, also, for the establishment of States and permanent government therein, and for their admission to a share in the Federal councils on an equal footing with the original States at as early periods as may be consistent with the general interest:
THE experiment of a Confedera- | was fairly tried by our fathers. Its tion, as contra-distinguished from a more intimate and positive Union,
"It is hereby ordained and declared, by the authority aforesaid, that the following articles shall be considered as articles of compact between the original States and the people and States in the said Territory, and forever remain unalterable, unless by common consent, to wit:
"ARTICLE 1. No person demeaning himself in a peaceable, orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship, or religious sentiments, in the Territory.
"ART. 2. The inhabitants of the said Territory shall always be entitled to the benefits of the right of habeas corpus, and to the trial by jury; of a proportionate representation of the people in the Legislature, and of judicial proceedings according to the course of the common law. All persons shall be bailable, unless for capital offenses, where the proof shall be evident or the presumption great. All fines shall be moderate, and no cruel or unusual punishment shall be inflicted. No man shall be deprived of his liberty, or property, but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land; and, should the public exigencies make it necessary for the common preservation to take any person's property, or to demand his particular services, full compensation shall be made for the same. And in the just preservation of rights and property, it is understood and declared, that no law ought ever to be made, or have force, in the said Territory, that shall, in any manner whatever, interfere with, or affect, private contracts or engagements, bona fide, and without fraud, previously formed.
only beneficent result was the demonstration thereby afforded of its
settlers in the said Territory shall be subject to pay a part of the Federal debts, apportioned on them by Congress, according to the same common rule and measure by which apportionments shall be made on the other States; and the taxes for paying their proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the district, or districts, or new States, as in the original States, within the time agreed upon by the United States, in Congress assembled. The Legislatures of those districts, or States, shall never interfere with the primary disposal of the soil by the United States in Congress assembled, nor with any regulations Congress may find necessary for securing the title in such soil to the bond fide purchasers. No taxes shall be imposed on the lands and property of the United States; and in no case shall nonresident proprietors be taxed higher than residents. The navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and Saint Lawrence, and the conveying-places between the same, shall be common highways, and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of the said Territory as to the citizens of the United States, and those of any other State that may be admitted into the Confederacy, without any tax, impost, or duty, therefor.
"ART. 3. General morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged. The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them, without their consent; and in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars, authorized by Congress; and laws, founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.
ART. 4. The said Territory, and the States which may be formed therein, shall forever remain a part of this confederacy of the United States of America, subject to the Articles of Confederation, and to such alterations therein as shall be constitutionally made, and to all acts and ordinances of the United States, in Congress assembled, conformable thereto. The inhabitants and
"ART. 5. There shall be formed in the said Territory no less than three, nor more than five States; and the boundaries of the States, as soon as Virginia shall alter her act of cession and consent to the same, shall be fixed and established as follows, to wit: The western State in the said Territory shall be bounded by the Mississippi, the Ohio, and Wabash rivers; a direct line drawn from the Wabash and Post Vincent's due north to the territorial line between the United States and Canada; and by the said territorial line to the Lake of the Woods and Mississippi. The middle State shall be bounded by the said direct line, the Wabash, from Post Vincent's to the Ohio; by the Ohio; by a direct line, drawn due north, from the mouth of the Great Miami to the said territorial line; and by the said national line. The eastern State shall be bounded by the last mentioned direct line, the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the said territorial line. Provided, however, and it is further understood and declared, that the boundaries of these three States shall be subject so far to be altered, that, if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient, they shall have authority to form one or two States in that part of the said Territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extremity of Lake Michigan. And
vital and incurable defects. Our | barrassment, and general distress, country attained under it neither finally overbore or temporarily silencdignity, consideration, security, nor ed sectional jealousies and State even solvency. The central or pride, to such an extent that a Connational authority, left dependent vention of delegates from a quorum on the concurrent action of the several of the States, called together rather States for the very means of existence, to amend than to supersede the was exhibited often in the attitude of Articles of Confederation, was legala genteel beggar, rather than of a ly assembled at Philadelphia in Sovereign. Congress attempted to 1787, George Washington, Benjamin impose a very moderate tariff for the Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James payment of interest on the general Madison, Edmund Randolph, and or foreign debt, contracted in sup- Charles C. Pinckney, being among port of the Revolutionary armies, its most eminent members. John but was baffled by the Legislature of Adams and Thomas Jefferson were Rhode Island-then a State of rela- absent as Embassadors in Europe. tively extensive foreign commerce- Samuel Adams, George Clinton, and which interposed its paralyzing veto. Patrick Henry stood aloof, watching Political impotence, commercial em- the movement with jealous appre
whenever any of the said States shall have 60,000 free inhabitants therein, such State shall be admitted, by its delegates, into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever, and shall be at liberty to form a permanent constitution and State government; provided the constitution and government so to be formed shall be republican, and in conformity to the principles contained in these articles. And so far as it can be consistent with the general interest of the confederacy, such admission shall be allowed at an earlier period, and when there may be a less number of free inhabitants in the State than 60,000.
"ART. 6. There shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said Territory, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; provided always, that any person escaping into the same from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed, and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor, or service, as aforesaid."
On passing the above Ordinance, the Yeas and Nays being required by Mr. Yates, they were taken, with the following result:
Journal of Congress, vol. iv., 1787.
"It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer arguments to prove the utility of the Union -a point, no doubt deeply engraven on the hearts of the great body of the people in every State, and one which, it may be imagined, has no adversaries. * * * But the fact is that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those who oppose the new Constitution, that the thirteen States are of too great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the whole. This doctrine will, in all probability, be gradually propagated, till it has votaries enough to countenance its open avowal. For nothing can be more evident to those who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative of an adoption of the Constitution or a dismemberment of the Union."-The Federalist, N. Y. edition of 1802, vol. i., p. 5.
"The melancholy story of the Federation showed the stern necessity of a 'compulsory power in the General Government to execute the duties confided to it; and the history of the present government itself has, on more than one occasion, manifested that the power of the Union is barely adequate to compel the execution of its laws, when resisted even by a single State."— Oliver Wolcott, vol. ii., p. 323.
SLAVERY IN THE CONVENTION.
hension. Franklin, then over eighty- | colored, if not recast, in accordance one years of age, declined the chair with the ambitions and ultimate on account of his increasing infirm- political relations of the recorders. ities; and, on his motion, George | The general outline, however, of the Washington was unanimously elected deliberations and decisions of the President. Convention are sufficiently exhibited in the Constitution, and in what we know of the various propositions rejected in the course of its formation. The purpose of this work will require only a rapid summary of what was done, and what left undone, in relation to Human Slavery.
The Convention sat with closed doors; and no circumstantial nor adequate report of its deliberations was made. The only accounts of them which have reached us are those of delegates who took notes at the time, or taxed their recollection in after years, when the matter had attained an importance not anticipated at the time of its occurrence; and these reminiscences are not free from the suspicion of having been
In the debate of Wednesday, August 8, on the adoption of the report of the Committee,
"Mr. RUFUS KING [then of Massachusetts, afterward an eminent Senator from New York] wished to know what influence the vote just passed was meant to have on the succeeding part of the report concerning the admission of slaves into the rule of representation. He could not reconcile his mind to the Article (Art. VII., Sect. 3), if it was to prevent objections to the latter part. The admission of slaves was a most grating circumstance to his mind, because he had hoped that this concession would have produced a readiness, which had not been manifested, to strengthen the General Government, and to make a full confidence in it. The report under consideration had, by the tenor of it, put an end to all his hopes. In two great points, the bands of the Legislature were absolutely tied. The importation of slaves could not be prohibited. Exports could not be taxed. Is this reasonable? What are the great objects of the general system? First, defense against foreign invasion; second, against internal sedition. Shall all the States, then, be bound to defend each, and shall each be at liberty to introduce a weakness which will render defense more difficult? Shall one part of the United States be bound to defend another part, and that other part be at liberty, not only to increase its own danger, but to withhold a compensation for the burden? If slaves are to be imported, shall not the exports produced by their labor supply a revenue, the better to enable the General Government to defend their masters? *** He never could agree to let them be imported without limitation, and then be represented in the National Legislature. Indeed, he could so little persuade himself of the rectitude of such a practice, that he was not sure that he could assent to it under any circumstances.
A majority of the framers of the Constitution, like nearly all their compatriots of our Revolutionary era, were adverse to Slavery. Their judgments condemned, and their con
"Mr. SHERMAN [Roger, of Connecticut] regarded the Slave-Trade as iniquitous; but, the point of representation having been settled after much difficulty and deliberation, he did not think himself bound to make opposition; especially as the present article, as amended, did not preclude any arrangement whatever on that point in another place reported.
"Mr. MADISON objected to one for every forty thousand inhabitants as a perpetual rule. The future increase of population, if the Union should be permanent, will render the number of representatives excessive.
"Mr. SHERMAN and Mr. MADISON moved to insert the words 'not exceeding' before the words 'one for every forty thousand inhabitants,' which was agreed to nem. con.
"Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS moved to insert 'free' before the word 'inhabitants.' Much, he said, would depend on this point. He never could concur in upholding Domestic Slavery. It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven on the States where it prevailed. Compare the free regions of the Middle States, where a rich and noble cultivation marks the prosperity and happiness of the people, with the misery and poverty which overspreads the barren wastes of Virginia, Maryland, and the other States having slaves. Travel through the whole continent, and you behold the prospect continually varying with the appearance and disappearance of Slavery. *** Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are they men? Then make them citizens, and let them vote. Are they property? Why, then, is no other property included? The houses in this city [Philadelphia] are worth more than all the wretched slaves that cover the rice-swamps of South Carolina. admission of slaves into the representation, when fairly explained, comes to this: that the inhabit