American Anti-Slavery Society.

The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 3 of 4 online

. (page 58 of 85)
Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 3 of 4 → online text (page 58 of 85)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Mr. Dickinson considered it as inadmissible, on every principle of
honor and safety, that the importation of slaves should be authorized
to the States by the Constitution. The true question was, whether the
national happiness would be promoted or impeded by the importation;
and this question ought to be left to the National Government, not to
the States particularly interested. If England and France permit
slavery, slaves are, at the same time, excluded from both those
kingdoms. Greece and Rome were made unhappy by their slaves. He could
not believe that the Southern States would refuse to confederate on
the account apprehended; especially as the power was not likely to be
immediately exercised by the General Government.

Mr. Williamson stated the law of North Carolina on the subject, to
wit, that it did not directly prohibit the importation of slaves. It
imposed a duty of £5 on each slave imported from Africa; £10 on each
from elsewhere; and £50 on each from a State licensing manumission. He
thought the Southern States could not be members of the Union, if the
clause should be rejected; and that it was wrong to force any thing
down not absolutely necessary, and which any State must disagree to.

Mr. King thought the subject should be considered in a political light
only. If two states will not agree to the Constitution, as stated on
one side, he could affirm with equal belief, on the other, that great
and equal opposition would be experienced from the other States. He
remarked on the exemption of slaves from duty, whilst every other
import was subjected to it, as an inequality that could not fail to
strike the commercial sagacity of the Northern and Middle States.

Mr. Langdon was strenuous for giving the power to the General
Government. He could not, with a good conscience, have it with the
States, who could then go on with the traffic, without being
restrained by the opinions here given, that they will themselves cease
to import slaves.

Gen. 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. If the Convention thinks that North Carolina, South
Carolina, and Georgia, will ever agree to the plan, unless their right
to import slaves be untouched, the expectation is vain. The people of
those States will never be such fools, as to give up so important an
interest. He was strenuous against striking out the section, and
seconded the motion of Gen. Pinckney for a commitment.

Mr. Gouverneur Morris wished the whole subject to be committed
including the clauses relating to taxes on exports and to a navigation
act. These things may form a bargain among the Northern and Southern
States.

Mr. Butler declared that he never would 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 qua non_. He
was opposed to a tax on slaves imported, as making the matter worse,
because it implied they were _property_. He acknowledged that if the
power of prohibiting the importation should be given to the General
Government, that it would be exercised. He thought it would be its
duty to exercise the power.

Mr. Read was for the commitment, provided the clause concerning taxes
on experts should also be committed.

Mr. Sherman observed that that clause had been agreed to, and
therefore could not be committed.

Mr. Randolph was for committing, in order that some middle ground
might, if possible, be found. He could never agree to the clause as it
stands. He would sooner risk the Constitution. He dwelt on the dilemma
to which the Convention was exposed. By agreeing to the clause, it
would revolt the Quakers, the Methodists, and many others in the
States having no slaves. On the other hand, two States might be lost
to the Union. Let us then, he said, try the chance of a commitment.

On the question for committing the remaining part of Sections 4 and 5,
of Article 7, - Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye - 7; New Hampshire,
Pennsylvania, Delaware, no - 3; Massachusetts absent. p. 1390-97.
Friday, August 24, 1787.

_In Convention_, - Governor Livingston, from the committee of eleven,
to whom were referred the two remaining clauses of the fourth section,
and the fifth and sixth sections, of the seventh Article, delivered in
the following Report:

"Strike out so much of the fourth section as was referred to the
Committee, and insert, 'The migration or importation of such persons
as the several States, now existing, shall think proper to admit,
shall not be prohibited by the Legislature prior to the year 1800; but
a tax or duty may be imposed on such migration or importation, at a
rate not exceeding the average of the duties laid on imports.'

"The fifth Section to remain as in the Report.

"The sixth Section[4] to be stricken out." p. 1415.

[Footnote 4: This sixth Section was, "No Navigation act shall be passed
without the assent of two-thirds of the members present in each
House." - EDITOR.]


Saturday, August 25, 1787.

The Report of the Committee of eleven (see Friday, the twenty-fourth)
being taken up, -

Gen. Pinckney moved to strike out the words, "the year eighteen
hundred," as the year limiting the importation of slaves; and to
insert the words, "the year eighteen hundred and eight."

Mr. Gorham seconded the motion.

Mr. Madison. Twenty years will produce all the mischief that can be
apprehended from the liberty to import slaves. So long a term will be
more dishonorable to the American character, than to say nothing about
it in the Constitution.

On the motion, which passed in the affirmative, - New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, aye - 7; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, no - 4.

Mr. Gouverneur Morris was for making the clause read at once, "the
importation of slaves in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia,
shall not be prohibited, &c." This he said, would be most fair, and
would avoid the ambiguity by which, under the power with regard to
naturalization, the liberty reserved to the States might be defeated.
He wished it to be known, also, that this part of the Constitution was
a compliance with those States. If the change of language, however,
should be objected to, by the members from those States, he should not
urge it.

Col. Mason was not against using the term "slaves," but against naming
North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, lest it should give
offence to the people of those States.

Mr. Sherman liked a description better than the terms proposed, which
had been declined by the old Congress, and were not pleasing to some
people.

M. Clymer concurred with Mr. Sherman.

Mr. Williamson said, that both in opinion and practice he was against
slavery; but thought it more in favor of humanity, from a view of all
circumstances, to let in South Carolina and Georgia on those terms,
than to exclude them from the Union.

Mr. Gouverneur Morris withdrew his motion.

Mr. Dickinson wished the clause to be confined to the States which had
not themselves prohibited the importation of slaves; and for that
purpose moved to amend the clause, so as to read: "The importation of
slaves into such of the States as shall permit the same, shall not be
prohibited by the Legislature of the United States, until the year
1808;" which was disagreed to, _nem. con._[5]

[Footnote 5: In the printed Journals, Connecticut, Virginia, and
Georgia, voted in the affirmative.]


The first part of the Report was then agreed to, amended as follows:
"The migration or importation of such persons as the several States
now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by
the Legislature prior to the year 1808," -

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina,
South Carolina, Georgia, aye - 7; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Virginia, no - 4.

Mr. Baldwin, in order to restrain and more explicitly define, "the
average duty," moved to strike out of the second part the words,
"average of the duties and on imports," and insert "common impost on
articles not enumerated;" which was agreed to, _nem. con._

Mr. Sherman was against this second part, as acknowledging men to be
property, by taxing them as such under the character of slaves.

Mr. King and Mr. Langdon considered this as the price of the first
part.

Gen. Pinckney admitted that it was so.

Col. Mason. Not to tax, will be equivalent to a bounty on, the
importation of slaves.

Mr. Gorham thought that Mr. Sherman should consider the duty, not as
implying that slaves are property, but as a discouragement to the
importation of them.

Mr. Gouverneur Morris remarked, that, as the clause now stands, it
implies that the Legislature may tax freemen imported.

Mr. Sherman, in answer to Mr. Gorham, observed, that the smallness of
the duty showed revenue to be the object, not the discouragement of
the importation.

Mr. Madison thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea
that there could be property in men. The reason of duties did not
hold, as slaves are not, like merchandise, consumed, &c.

Col. Mason, in answer to Mr. Gouverneur Morris. The provision as it
stands, was necessary for the case of convicts; in order to prevent
the introduction of them.

It was finally agreed, _nem. con_., to make the clause read: "but a
tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten
dollars for each person;" and then the second part, as amended, was
agreed to. _pp_. 1427 to 30.

Tuesday, August 28, 1787.

Article 14, was then taken up.

General Pinckney was not satisfied with it. He seemed to wish some
provision should be included in favor of property in slaves.

On the question on Article 14, -

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, aye - 9; South Carolina,
no - 1; Georgia, divided.

Article 15, being then taken up, the words, "high misdemeanor," were
struck out, and the words, "other crime," inserted, in order to
comprehend all proper cases; it being doubtful whether "high
misdemeanor" had not a technical meaning too limited.

Mr. Butler and Mr. Pinckney moved to require "fugitive slaves and
servants to be delivered up like criminals."

Mr. Wilson. This would oblige the Executive of the State to do it, at
the public expense.

Mr. Sherman saw no more propriety in the public seizing and
surrendering a slave or servant, than a horse.

Mr. Butler withdrew his proposition, in order that some particular
provision might be made, apart from this article.

Article 15, as amended, was then agreed to, _nem. con_. _pp_. 1447-8.

Wednesday, August 29, 1787.

General Pinckney said it was the true interest of the Southern States
to have no regulation of commerce; but considering the loss brought on
the commerce of the Eastern States by the Revolution, their liberal
conduct towards the views[6] of South Carolina, and the interest the
weak Southern States had in being united with the strong Eastern
States, he thought it proper that no fetters should be imposed on the
power of making commercial regulations, and that his constituents,
though prejudiced against the Eastern States, would be reconciled to
this liberality. He had, himself, he said, prejudices against the
Eastern States before he came here, but would acknowledge that he had
found them as liberal and candid as any men whatever. _p_. 1451.

[Footnote 6: He meant the permission to import slaves. An understanding
on the two subjects of _navigation_ and _slavery_, had taken place
between those parts of the Union, which explains the vote on the
motion depending, as well as the language of General Pinckney and
others.]


Mr. Butler moved to insert after Article 15, "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 subsisting in the State to
which they escape, but shall be delivered up to the person justly
claiming their service or labor," - which was agreed to, _nem. con_.
_p_. 1456.

Monday, September 10, 1787.

Mr. Rutledge said he never could agree to give a power by which the
articles relating to slaves might be altered by the States not
interested in that property, and prejudiced against it. In order to
obviate this objection, these words were added to the proposition:
"provided that no amendments, which may be made prior to the year 1808
shall in any manner affect the fourth and fifth sections of the
seventh Article." _p_. 1536.

Thursday, September 13, 1787.

Article 1, Section 2. On motion of Mr. Randolph, the word "servitude"
was struck out, and "service" unanimously[7] inserted, the former
being thought to express the condition of slaves, and the latter the
obligations of free persons.

[Footnote 7: See page 372 of the printed journal.]


Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Wilson moved to strike out, "and direct taxes,"
from Article 1, Section 2, as improperly placed in a clause relating
merely to the Constitution of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Gouverneur Morris. The insertion here was in consequence of what
had passed on this point; in order to exclude the appearance of
counting the negroes in the _representation_. The including of them
may now be referred to the object of direct taxes, and incidentally
only to that representation.

On the motion to strike out, "and direct taxes," from this place, - New
Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, aye - 3; New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, no - 8. _pp_. 1569-70.

Saturday, September 15, 1787.

Article 4, Section 2, (the third paragraph,) the term "legally" was
struck out; and the words, "under the laws thereof," inserted after
the word "State," in compliance with the wish of some who thought the
term _legal_ equivocal, and favoring the idea that slavery was legal
in a moral view. _p_. 1589.

Mr. Gerry stated the objections which determined him to withhold his
name from the Constitution: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6, that three fifths of
the blacks are to be represented, as if they were freemen. _p_. 1595.

* * * * *

LIST OF MEMBERS

OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION WHO FORMED THE CONSTITUTION OF
THE UNITED STATES.


From Attended.
New Hampshire, 1 John Langdon, July 23, 1787.
_John Pickering,_
2 Nicholas Gilman, " 23.
_Benjamin West_.
Massachusetts, _Francis Dana_,
Elbridge Gerry, May 29.
3 Nath'l Gorham, " 25.
4 Rufus King, " 25.
Caleb Strong, " 28.
Rhode Island, (No appointment.)
Connecticut, 5 W.S. Johnson, June 2.
6 Roger Sherman, May 30.
Oliver Ellsworth, " 29.
New York, Robert Yates, " 25.
7 Alex'r Hamilton, " 25.
John Lansing, June 2.
New Jersey, 8 Wm. Livingston, " 5.
9 David Brearly, May 5.
Wm. C. Houston, do.
10 Wm. Patterson, do.
_John Nielson_,
_Abraham Clark_.
11 Jonathan Dayton, June 21.
Pennsylvania, 12 Benj. Franklin, May 28.
13 Thos. Miffin, do.
Pennsylvania. 14 Robert Morris, May 25.
15 Gen. Clymer, " 28.
16 Thos. Fitzsimmons, " 25.
17 Jared Ingersoll, " 28.
18 James Wilson, " 25.
19 Gouv'r Morris, " 25.
Delaware, 20 Geo. Reed, " 25.
21 G. Bedford, Jr. " 28.
22 John Dickinson, " 28.
23 Richard Bassett, " 25.
24 Jacob Broom, " 25.
Maryland, 25 James M'Henry, " 29.
26 Daniel of St. Tho. Jenifer, June 2.
27 Daniel Carroll, July 9.
John F. Mercer, Aug. 6.
Luther Martin, June 9.
Virginia, 28 G. Washington, May 25.
_Patrick Henry_, (declined.)
Edmund Randolph, " 25.
29 John Blair, " 25.
30 Jas. Madison, Jr. " 25.
George Mason, " 25.
George Wythe, " 25.
James McClurg, (in
room P. Henry) " 25.
North Carolina, _Rich'd Caswell_ (resigned).
Alex'r Martin, May 25.
Wm. R. Davie, " 25.
31 Wm. Blount (in room
of R. Caswell), June 20.
_Willie Jones_ (declined).
32 R. D. Spaight, May 25.
33 Hugh Williamson, (in
room of W. Jones,) May 25.
South Carolina, 34 John Rutledge, " 25.
35 Chas. C. Pinckney, " 25.
36 Chas. Pinckney, " 25.
37 Peirce Butler, " 25.
Georgia, 38 William Few, " 25.
39 Abr'm Baldwin, June 11.
William Pierce, May 31.
_George Walton_.
Wm. Houston, June 1.
_Nath'l Pendleton_.

Those with numbers before their names signed the Constitution. 39
Those in italics never attended. 10
Members who attended, but did not sign the Constitution, 16
-
65


Extract from a Speech of Luther Martin, (delivered before the
Legislature of Maryland,) one of the delegates from Maryland to the
Convention that formed the Constitution of the United States.

With respect to that part of the _second_ section of the _first_
Article, which relates to the apportionment of representation and
direct taxation, there were considerable objections made to it,
besides the great objection of inequality - It was urged, that no
principle could justify taking _slaves_ into computation in
apportioning the number of _representatives_ a state should have in
the government - That it involved the absurdity of increasing the power
of a state in making laws for _free men_ in proportion as that State
violated the rights of freedom - That it might be proper to take
slaves into consideration, when _taxes_ were to be apportioned,
because it had a tendency to _discourage slavery_; but to take them
into account in giving representation tended to _encourage_ the _slave
trade_, and to make it the _interest_ of the states to _continue_ that
_infamous traffic_ - That slaves could not be taken into account as
_men_, or _citizens_, because they were not admitted to the _rights of
citizens_, in the states which adopted or continued slavery - If they
were to be taken into account as _property_, it was asked, what
peculiar circumstance should render this property (of all others the
most odious in its nature) entitled to the high privilege of
conferring consequence and power in the government to its possessors,
rather than _any other_ property: and why _slaves_ should, as
property, be taken into account rather than horses, cattle, mules, or
any other species; and it was observed by an honorable member from
Massachusetts, that he considered it as dishonorable and humiliating
to enter into compact with the _slaves_ of the _southern states_, as
it would with the _horses_ and _mules_ of the _eastern_.

By the ninth section of this Article, the importation of such persons
as any of the States now existing, shall think proper to admit, shall
not be prohibited prior to the year 1808, but a duty may be imposed on
such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

The design of this clause is to prevent the general government from
prohibiting the importation of slaves; but the same reasons which
caused them to strike out the word "national," and not admit the word
"stamps," influenced them here to guard against the word "_slaves_."
They anxiously sought to avoid the admission of expressions which
might be odious in the ears of Americans, although they were willing
to admit into their system those _things_ which the expression
signified; and hence it is that the clause is so worded as really to
authorize the general government to impose a duty of ten dollars on
every foreigner who comes into a State to become a citizen, whether he
comes absolutely free, or qualifiedly so as a servant; although this
is contrary to the design of the framers, and the duty was only meant
to extend to the importation of slaves.

This clause was the subject of a great diversity of sentiment in the
Convention. As the system was reported by the committee of detail, the
provision was general, that such importation should not be prohibited,
without confining it to any particular period. This was rejected by
eight States - Georgia, South Carolina, and, I think, North Carolina,
voting for it.

We were then told by the delegates of the two first of those states,
that their states would never agree to a system, which put it in the
power of the general government to prevent the importation of slaves,
and that they, as delegates from those states, must withhold their
assent from such a system.

A committee of one member from each State was chosen by ballot, to
take this part of the system under their consideration, and to
endeavor to agree upon some report, which should reconcile those
States. To this committee also was referred the following proposition,
which had been reported by the committee of detail, to wit: "No
navigation act shall be passed without the assent of two-thirds of the
members present in each house;" a proposition which the staple and
commercial States were solicitous to retain, lest their commerce
should be placed too much under the power of the Eastern States; but
which these last States were as anxious to reject. This committee, of
which also I had the honor to be a member, met and took under their
consideration the subjects committed to them. I found the _eastern_
States, notwithstanding their _aversion to slavery_, were very willing
to indulge the southern States, at least with a temporary liberty to
prosecute the _slave trade_, provided the southern states would in
their turn gratify them, by laying no restriction on navigation acts;
and after a very little time, the committee, by a great majority,
agreed on a report, by which the general government was to be
prohibited from preventing the importation of slaves for a limited
time, and the restricted clause relative to navigation acts was to be
omitted.

This report was adopted by a majority of the Convention, but not
without considerable opposition.

It was said, we had just assumed a place among independent nations in
consequence of our opposition to the attempts of Great Britain to



Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 3 of 4 → online text (page 58 of 85)