Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

sciences reprobated it. They would | deform our great charter, are not

evidently have preferred to pass over the subject in silence, and frame a Constitution wherein the existence of human bondage was not impliedly or constructively recognized. Hence it may be noted, that those provisions favoring or upholding Slavery, which

ant of Georgia or South Carolina, who goes to the coast of Africa, and, in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity, tears away his fellowcreatures from their dearest connections, and dooms them to the most cruel bondage, shall have more votes in a government instituted for the protection of the rights of mankind than the citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey, who views with a laudable horror so nefarious a practice. He would add, that Domestic Slavery is the most prominent feature in the aristocratic countenance of the proposed Constitution. *** Let it not be said that Direct Taxation is to be proportioned to Representation. It is idle to supFose that the General Government can stretch its hand directly into the pockets of the people, scattered over so vast a country. They can only do it through the medium of exports, imports, and excises. For what, then, are all the sacrifices to be made? He would sooner submit himself to a tax, paying for all the negroes in the United States, than saddle posterity with such a Constitution.

"Mr. DAYTON [of New Jersey] seconded the motion. He did it, he said, that his sentiments on the subject might appear, whatever might be the fate of the amendment.

"Mr. SHERMAN did not regard the admission of negroes into the ratio of representation as liable to such insuperable objections," etc., etc.

"Mr. PINCKNEY [C. C., of South Carolina] considered the Fisheries and the Western Frontier as more burdensome to the United States than

the slaves. He thought this could be demonstrated, if the occasion were a proper one."

On the question on the motion to insert "free" before "inhabitants," it was disagreed to; New Jersey alone voting in the affirmative. -Madison's Papers, vol. iii., p. 1261.

Tuesday, August 21st:

"Mr. LUTHER MARTIN [of Maryland] proposed to vary Article VII., Section 4; so as to allow a prohibition or tax on the importation of slaves. In the first place, as five slaves are to be counted as three freemen in the apportionment of representatives, such a clause would leave an encouragement to this traffic. In the second place, slaves weakened one part of the Union, which the other parts were bound to protect. The privilege of importing was therefore unreasonable. And in the third place, it was inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution, and dishonorable to the American character, to have such a feature in the Constitution.

"Mr. RUTLEDGE [of South Carolina] did not see how the importation of slaves could be encouraged by this section. He was not apprehen

original and integral parts of the fabric, and, as such, contained in the original draft thereof; but are unsightly and abnormal and abnormal additions, rather fastened upon than interwoven with the body of the structure. Could the majority have made such

sive of insurrections, and would readily exempt the other States from the obligation to protect the Southern against them. Religion and humanity had nothing to do with this question. Interest alone is the governing principle with nations," etc.

"Mr. ELLSWORTH [of Connecticut] was for leaving the clause as it stands," etc.

"Mr. PINCKNEY.-South Carolina can never receive the plan if it prohibits the Slave-Trade. In every proposed extension of the powers of Congress, that State expressly and watchfully excepted that of meddling with the importation of negroes. If the States should be all left at liberty on this subject, South Carolina may, perhaps, by degrees, do of herself what is wished, as Virginia and Maryland have already done."

66

Adjourned."-Ibid., p. 1388.

Again: in the debate of the following daythe consideration of Article VII., Section 4, being resumed-Colonel MASON [George, grandfather of James M., late United States Senator, and late Confederate emissary to England] gave utterance to the following sentiments:

"This infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants. The British government has constantly checked the attempts of Virginia to put a stop to it. The present question concerned not the importing of slaves alone, but the whole Union. The evil of having slaves was experienced during the late war. Had slaves been treated as they might have been by the enemy, they would have proved dangerous instruments in their hands. But their folly dealt by the slaves as it did by the Tories.*** Maryland and Virginia, he said, had already prohibited the importation of slaves. North Carolina had done the same in substance. All this would be vain, if South Carolina and Georgia be at liberty to import. The Western people are already calling for slaves for their new lands; and will fill that country with slaves, if they can be got through South Carolina and Georgia. Slavery discourages the arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the emigration of whites, who really enrich and strengthen a country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country. As nations can not be punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities. *** He held it essential, in every point of view, that the General Government should have power to prevent the increase of Slavery."-Ibid., p.1390.

THE SLAVE-TRADE IN THE CONVENTION.

45

a Constitution as they would have | by the delegates from those States. preferred, Slavery would have found North Carolina was passive; Virno lodgment in it; but already the ginia and her more northern sisters whip of Disunion was brandished, more than willing to prohibit at once and the fatal necessity of Compro- the further importation of Slaves; mise made manifest. The Convention in fact, several, if not all, of these would have at once and forever pro- States, including Virginia and Maryhibited, so far as our country and her land, had already expressly forbidpeople were concerned, the African den it. But the ultimatum presented Slave-Trade; but South Carolina and by the still slave-hungry States of Georgia were present, by their dele- the extreme South was imperative, gates, to admonish, and, if admoni- and the necessity of submitting to it tion did not answer, to menace, that was quite too easily conceded. Roger this must not be.3 "No Slave- Sherman, of Connecticut, was among Trade, no Union!" Such was the the first to admit it. The conscience short and sharp alternative presented of the North was quieted' by em

In the debate of the same day, "General Pinckney declared it to be his firm conviction, that, if himself and all his colleagues were to sign the Constitution, and use their personal influence, it would be of no avail toward obtaining the consent of their constituents. South Carolina and Georgia can not do without slaves. ** He contended that the importation of slaves would be for the interest of the whole Union. The more slaves, the more products to employ the carrying trade; the more consumption also; and the more of this, the more revenue for the common treasury. He admitted it to be reasonable, that slaves should be dutied, like other imports, but should consider a rejection of the clause as an exclusion of South Carolina from the Union. "Mr. BALDWIN has similar conceptions in the case of Georgia.

"Mr. WILSON (of Pennsylvania) observed, that, if South Carolina and Georgia were thus disposed to get rid of the importation of slaves in a short time, as had been suggested, they would never refuse to unite, because the importation might be prohibited. As the section now stands, all articles imported are to be taxed. Slaves alone are exempt. This is, in fact, a bounty on that article.

Mr. DICKINSON [of Delaware] expressed his sentiments as of a similar character. And Messrs. KING and LANGDON [of New Hampshire] were also in favor of giving the power to the General Government.

"General PINCKNEY thought himself bound to declare candidly, that he did not think South Carolina would stop her importations of slaves in any short time; but only stop them occasionally, as she now does. He moved to commit the clause, that slaves might be made liable to an equal tax with other imports; which he thought right, and which would remove one difficulty that had been started.

"Mr. RUTLEDGE seconded the motion of General Pinckney.

"Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS wished the whole

act.

subject to be committed, including the clause
relating to taxes on exports, and the navigation
These things may form a bargain among
the Northern and Southern States.
"Mr. BUTLER [of South Carolina] declared that
he would never agree to the power of taxing
exports.

"Mr. SHERMAN said it was better to let the Southern States import slaves than to part with them, if they made that a sine quâ non.”

On the question for committing the remaining part of Sections 4 and 5, of Article VII., the vote was 7 in the affirmative; 3 in the negative; Massachusetts absent.-Ibid., p. 1392.

4 An instance of this quieting influence, as exerted by The Federalist, a series of letters, urging upon the Northern people the adoption of the new Constitution, as framed and presented to their several legislatures for ratification by the Federal Convention, may be shown in the following:

"It were, doubtless, to be wished that the power of prohibiting the importation of slaves had not been postponed until the year 1808; or rather, that it had been suffered to have immediate operation. But it is not difficult to account either for this restriction on the General Government, or for the manner in which the whole clause is expressed. It ought to be considered as a great point gained in favor of humanity, that a period of twenty years may terminate forever, within these States, a traffic which has so long and so loudly upbraided the barbarism of modern policy; that within that period it will receive a considerable discouragement from the Federal Government, and may be totally abolished by the concurrence of the few States which continue the unnatural traffic, in the prohibitory example which is given by so large a majority of the Union. Happy would it be for the unfortunate Africans if an equal prospect lay before them of being redeemed from the

bodying in the Constitution a pro- | should they be represented any more viso that Congress might interdict than ships, or houses, or cattle? the foreign Slave-Trade after the Here is a nabob, who values his favorexpiration of twenty years-a termite high-bred horse at five thousand which, it was generally agreed, dollars, and five of his able-bodied ought fully to satisfy the craving of negroes at the same amount. Why Carolina and Georgia. The modi- should his five negroes count as three fied proposition to prohibit the Slave- men in apportioning the repreTrade now encountering no opposi- sentatives in Congress among the tion, the recognition of slaves, as a several States, while the blooded basis of political power, presented a horse counts just nothing at all? We grave and intricate problem. It was can only answer that Slavery and one calculated, at least, to place the Reason travel different roads, and antagonistic parties respectively in that he strives in vain who labors to false positions. If slaves are human make those roads even seem parallel. beings, why should they not be repre- The Convention, without much desented like other human beings- bate or demur, split the difference, that is, like women and children, and by deciding that the basis alike of other persons, ignorant, humble, and Representation in Congress, and of powerless, like themselves? If, on the Direct Taxation, should be the entire other hand, you consider them prop- free population of each State, with erty-mere chattels personal, why "three-fifths of all other persons.

oppression of their European brethren."-The Federalist, vol. i., p. 276.

The Encyclopædia Britannica (latest edition -Art., Slavery) states that the African SlaveTrade was abolished by Great Britain, after years of ineffectual struggle under the lead of Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, Wilberforce, etc., on the 25th of March, 1807; and most inaccurately and unjustly adds:

"The great measure of the British legislature was imitated, in the first instance, by the United States."

To say nothing of acts prohibiting the importation of slaves by several of our States, Virginia and Maryland inclusive, prior to the framing of our Federal Constitution, and the provisions incorporated in that instrument looking to a complete suppression of the Slave-Trade after twenty years, our Congress, on the 22d day of March, 1794, passed an act forbidding and punishing any participation by our citizens in the Slave-Trade to foreign countries, which had long been very zealously pursued and protected by Great Britain as a large and lucrative branch of her foreign commerce and navigation. In 1800, our Congress passed a further act, to the same effect, but more sweeping in its provisions and severe in its penalties. On the 2d of March, 1807-twenty-three days before the passage of the British act-Congress passed one which

[ocr errors]

prohibits the African Slave-Trade utterly-to our own country as well as to foreign lands. True, this act did not take effect till the 1st of January ensuing, because of the constitutional inhibition aforesaid; but we submit that this does not invalidate our claim for our country and her Revolutionary Statesmen of the honor of having pioneered thus far the advance of Justice and Humanity, to the overthrow of a giant iniquity.

The Encyclopædia aforesaid, in noting the fact that the African Slave-Trade was abolished by Great Britain under the brief Whig ministry of Fox and Grenville, after such abolition had been boldly urged for twenty years under the all but dictatorial Tory rule of Pitt, who was professedly its friend, forcibly and truly adds:

"The proud son of Chatham loved truth and justice not a little, but he loved power and place greatly more; and he was resolved that Negro Emancipation should not lose him either a shred of political influence or a beam of [royal] favor."

The particular individual of whom this is said is now some sixty years dead; but the breed was not extinct, in either hemisphere, at the date of our latest advices.

6"We subscribe to the doctrine, might one of our Southern brethren observe, that Representation relates more immediately to persons, and Taxation more immediately to property; and we join in the application of this distinction to the case of our slaves. But we deny the fact, that

THE FUGITIVE SLAVE CLAUSE.

47

At length, when the Constitution was among the necessities or grievwas nearly completed, Slavery, ances which had impelled the asthrough its attorney, Mr. Butler, of sembling of this Convention. But South Carolina, presented its little the insertion of a slave-catching Bill for extras. Like Oliver Twist, it clause in the Constitution would unwanted some more.' Its new de- doubtedly be regarded with favor by mand was that slaves escaping from the slaveholding interest, and would one State into another, might be fol- strongly tend to render the new lowed and legally reclaimed. This re- frame-work of government more acquirement, be it observed, was en- ceptable to the extreme South. So, tirely outside of any general and after one or two unsuccessful atobvious necessity. No one could tempts, Mr. Butler finally gave to pretend that there was any thing his proposition a shape in which it mutual in the obligation it sought to proved acceptable to a majority; and impose that Massachusetts or New it was adopted, with slight apparent Hampshire was either anxious to resistance or consideration.' secure the privilege of reclaiming her fugitive slaves who might escape into Carolina or Georgia, or had any desire to enter into reciprocal engagements to this end. Nor could any one gravely insist that the provision for the mutual rendition of slaves was essential to the completeness of the Federal pact. The old Confederation had known nothing like it; yet no one asserted that the want of an inter-State Fugitive Slave law

slaves are considered merely as property, and in no respect whatever as persons. The true state of the case is, that they partake of both these qualities, being considered by our laws in some respects as persons, and in other respects as property. In being compelled to labor, not merely for himself, but for a master-in being vendible by one master to another master, and being subject, at all times, to being restrained in his liberty and chastised in his body by the capricious will of his owner, the slave may appear to be degraded from the human rank, and classed with that of the irrational animals, which fall under the legal denomination of property. In being protected, on the other hand, in his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all others, even the master of his labor and his liberty, and in being punished himself for all violence committed against others, the slave is no less regarded by the law as a member of society, not as a part of the irrational creationas a moral person, not a mere object of property. The Federal Constitution, therefore, decides, with great propriety, on the case of our slaves, when it views them in the mixed character of persons and property. This is, in fact,

In these latter days, since the radical injustice and iniquity of slaveholding have been more profoundly realized and generally appreciated, many subtle and some able attempts have been made to explain away this most unfortunate provision, for the reason that the Convention wisely and decorously excluded the terms Slave and Slavery from the Constitution; "because," as Mr. Madison says, "they did not choose to admit

their true character. It is the character bestowed on them by the laws under which they live; and it will not be disputed that these are the proper criterion, because it is only under the pretext that the laws have transformed negroes into subjects of property, that a place is denied to them in the computation of numbers; and it is admitted that, if the laws were to restore the rights which have been taken away, the negroes would no longer be refused an equal share of representation with the other inhabitants."-The Federalist, vol. ii., p. 46.

"In Convention, Wednesday, August 29, 1787.

"Mr. Butler moved to insert, after Article XV., 'if any person bound to service or labor in any of the United States shall escape into another State, he or she shall not be discharged from such service or labor in consequence of any regulations existing in the State to which they escape, but shall be delivered up to the person justly claiming their service or labor'-which, after some verbal modification, was agreed to, nem. con."-Madison's Papers, vol. iii., p. 145, 6.

It

slaveholders: "This provision is contrary to equity and good conscience; hence we can not obey it. To seize our fellow-man and thrust him into an abhorred bondage may in your eyes be innocent, in ours it would be crime. If, then, you are aggrieved in any case, by our refusal or neglect to return your fugitives, make out your bill for their fair market value and call upon us for its payment. If we refuse it, you will then have a real grievance to allege

the right of property in man." has been argued that this provision does not contemplate the rendition of fugitives from Slavery, but rather of runaway apprentices, persons who, having entered into contracts for their own labor, have repudiated their engagements, and other such Jonahs. The records and reminiscences of the Convention, however, utterly refute and dissipate these vain and idle pretenses. It is sheer absurdity to contend that South Carolina in the Convention was absorb-this, namely: that we have deingly intent on engrafting upon the prived you of what the Constitution Federal Constitution a provision for recognizes as your property, and have the recapture of runaway appren- failed to make recompense therefor. tices, or any thing of the sort. What But you surely can not blame us, that, she meant was, to extort from the having been enlightened as to the imapprehensions of a majority, anxious moral nature of acts consented to, or for a more perfect Union, a conces- stipulated for, by our fathers, we are sion of authority to hunt fugitive unable longer to commit them. Take slaves in any part of our broad our property, if you think yourselves national area, and legally to drag entitled to it; but allow us to be them thence back into perpetual faithful to our convictions of duty bondage. If the Convention did not and the promptings of humanity." mean to grant exactly that, it trifled with a very grave subject, and stooped to an unworthy deception. How much better to meet the issue broadly and manfully, saying frankly to the

In the debate of Tuesday, July 29, 1788, in the North Carolina ratification convention, which was organized at Hillsborough, July 21, 1788:

"Mr. Iredell begged leave to explain the reason of this clause (last clause, Section 2, Article IV.). In some of the Northern States, they have emancipated all their slaves. If any of our slaves, said he, go there and remain there a certain time, they would, by the present laws, be entitled to their freedom, so that their masters could not get them again. This would be extremely prejudicial to the inhabitants of the Southern States; and to prevent it, this clause is inserted in the Constitution. Though the word slave is not mentioned, this is the meaning of it. The Northern delegates, owing to their peculiar scruples on the subject of Slavery, did not choose the word slave to be mentioned."-Elliot's Debates, vol. iv., p. 176.

General Charles C. Pinckney, in laying the Federal Constitution before the Convention of South Carolina, which assembled January 15, 1788, to pass upon it, made a speech,

Governor Seward, in his speech of March 11, 1850, on Freedom in the Territories, forcibly set forth the true and manly Northern ground on this subject, as follows:

"The law of nations disayows such compacts; the law of nature, written on the hearts and consciences of freemen, repudiates them. I know that there are laws, of various sorts, which regulate the conduct of men. There are constitutions and statutes, codes mercantile and codes civil; but when we are legislating for States, especially when we are founding States, all these laws must be brought to the standard of the law of God, must be tried by that standard, and must stand or fall by it. To conclude on this point: We are not slaveholders. We can not, in our judgment, be either true Christians or real freemen, if we impose on another a chain that we defy all human power to fasten on ourselves."-Seward's Works, vol. i., p. 66.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »