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John Taylor.

Construction construed, and constitutions vindicated online

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made, and every new partiality, would be an alteration of the
federal constitution. Congress would be converted by the new
federal scheme of a balance of power, between two combina*
tions of states, into a convention, meeting annually to make
new bargains for obtaining a preponderance, and local advan-
tages over each other; or in fact to make annually a new fede-
ral constitution. To those who saw the difficulty of making
that we now have, the consequences of this species of policy
will be quite plain.

It will very much resemble the whig and tory policy of En-
gland. By that, two parties were artificially created, whose
whole business it was to get money and power, without any re-
gard to the publick good. The parliament retained its repreften^
tative and debating qualities, but tiie intention of discussion
and deliberation was wholly defeated. The most conclusive
reasoning ceased tp make any impression, aikl every decision^
almost every individual vote, is certainly foreseen before a
deliberation. But there is one very material difference between
this new project for a balance of power in the United States,
and the English balance between whigs and tories. Ours will
superadd to the disgusting moral deformities of theirs, the hide-
ous feature of being geographical.

Our idea of a balance of power contemplates two spacious
territories, with the population of each separately integral, as
ximj^omerated by an adverse interest; and though substantially^



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federal in ihetnelires^ sidistuitiilly aiiti4ed6nl willi respect to
each other. It is absurd to imagine tiiat slarerj is the real con-
glutinator of these conglomerations, (hard words will be par-
doned on this hard sa^ect,) becanse «ie party cannot want
slaves, now that the ^ave trade is abolished ; would not keep
tliem; and a rape, like that of the Sabine women, is by no
means to be apprehended ; and because, should any disposition
exist to take tiiem away, the other party are quite willing to
part with them.

A political balance rf power, and a crusade against slavery,
through ^e bowels df the constitution, are two things so very
distinct, that a thousand reasons might be urged against their
supposed consanguinity; I shall, however, only trouble the
reader with six. First, the crusade would certainly destroy
the union ; now the conviction of both parties, that it is their
interest tb preserve it, causes a profession on the part of our
balance-mongers, that this new division is intended to cement
it. Secondly, zeal to abolish slavery may find ample food,
without hazardingr the union upon the experim^it. The Bra»
Zils, Cuba, or Africa itself, would supply it with ample employ-
ment for the furor liberandi. Thirdly, a little matter of trade
might be mingled with crusades to these countries ; and if in
Africa for instance, things should not be found ripe for chivalry,
a consolation for the disappointment might be found in lucra-
tive return cargoes for the other two countries. Fourthly, the
honour of a crusade against foreigners, and in one case hea-
thens, would be as great as the honour of a crusade against
brethren and christians, and the danger would be less^ Fifthly,
it is prudent, when a resolution is taken to set fire to ^K>me
body's house, to go far from home, lest the flames may reach our
own, as the wind is apt to change. Sixthly, if our consciences
tdl us that we ought to enslave freemen, to make slaves free,
and to cause the destruction of a million or two of peo{de, white
and black, in the good work, nature tells us to give the prefer^
ence in such favours, to those who need them most; and not
to destroy the rights and lives of those whom we love and who
love us, because they are suffering a misfortune imposed on
them by others. My imagination seizing upon this suggestion
Went to work, and conjured up a set of witches before my eyes,
irtio seemed to be pouring into a huge cauldron called the



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United States, a collection of poisonous ingredientB; all labelled
at t<^ ''slayeryt'' and to be singings

* Donlile, doable, toil aod trouble,
** Fire boTDy and canldroii bubble.*

Bttt upon looking at the nnderside of the labels, I invariably
discerned the words .'* ambition, ayarice* exclusive privil^esg
bciunties, pensions and corporations.''

The subject of internal slavery was definitively disposed of
by the federal compact, and it would be a fraud to open it again.
To violate the compact as. to a local internal affiiir» would des^
troy it. For above thirty years since the last union, this sub-
ject, unstirred, has given the United States no trouble. No
reflecting man can hesitate to believe, that our experience has
ascertained, that let alone, it will be harmless to the union ; and
that if it be used to excite hostile feelings between two great
divisions of states, its mischiefs may exceed the most apprehen-
sive anticipation. Besides, all politicians agree that a reforma-
tion of long standing evils is best effected by slow remedies, and
the progress made by the states themselves towards diminishing
this, shews that they may be trusted with confidence in an af-
fair of thdr own, of which thc^ are the rightful and best judges.

When I was at college in 1775, a shoemaker sometimes made
qieeches to the students to invigorate them in the patriotism so
necessary at that period* Being intoxicated upon one of these
occasions, he was obliged to sustain himself by a post in the
street whilst be delivered his harangue, which he demonstrated
^ concluding with the maxim *f united we stand, divided I
&11," and letting go the post, down he tumUed. The post, it is
true, kept its ground ; but if the union be lost, no divination is
necessary to foresee, that every state will get a falL If the
United States ar^ intoxicated by the word "slavery'* not only
to let go, but to dig up the post, by which they are supported,
how will the comparison stand between them and tiie drunken
shoemaker?

I have said that tiiis new policy is absurd, and I will attempt
to prove it. A permanent balance of power can only be fouhd-
ed in natural causes, and slavery has no connexion with geogra-
phical circuQistances. Climate, proxiiKiity and navigation^ can



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jftnly beget co^iUBations between states, svScient to create tke
baleful idea of a ge(^;raphical balance of power* Maine ean
never be united with Ohio, nor Maryland with Missouri, in £Mia-
ing a balance of power composed of two divisions of states* Bo^
if a balance of power is attempted to be established by the line
of slavery, it will introduce a natural, instead (rf* an unnatural
geographical divisimi, and a line between eastern and western
states will very soon be substituted for this whimsi^ species oi
geography. The experiment will produce gr^t disorder and
confusion^ and afford a temporary gratification to individual
avarice and ambition ; but it will aoon be discovered that natu-
ral, local and lasting interests are nuM'e ccm^utinating than a
temporary, flaggii^ and crusading enthusiasm ; and if the ^tes
must be divided and arrayed against each other, they vriil iMkt
refuge from the sway of a ianatick, within lines marked out bj
nature.

The boundaries of the states were respected, and the right
ef internal self-government reserved to them by the federal
constituticm, to remove the temptations arising from a natural
dissimilarity of circumstances, which mi^t seduce them into
the ruinous system of partial comtnnations ; and congress were
only invested with powers reaching interests which were com-
mon to all tiie states, to prevent a possibility of geographicid
partialities, which would certainly operate as provocations
towards the chief danger which menaced the glory and hap-
piness of the United States. From this policy, intended to
avert the greatest misfortune the United States can sustain,
the policy of an mterference by congress with an interest not
common ammig all the states, of exciting local feelings and
manufacturing mutual provocations, and of establishing two
great combinations of sti^s, is a complete departure; and it
cannot therefore produce the effects, which the policy of the
constitution laboured to accomplish* In pursuance of its great
object to prevent combinations between states, the constitution,
after having distributed powers between the federal and state
governments, with a view to supersede ail the means having a
tendency towards the deprecated calamity, closes the subject
by a positive prohibition upon a state ** to enter into any agree-
<• ment or compact with another state.'' Now, is not the Mis-
souri agreement or compaetf a positive violation of this plain



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ppoUbitimiy mi rapf06i«giiaa4ier arpiiiMvt esifited, cletrly
imeo&stitatioiial from this single conaideratioii? It is a compact
cr agreement by one half of tlie states with tiie other half, aaA
from its magmtttde» and the power of the parties, infinitely
nore dangerons than the attempt by the Hartford conreBtion
to oong^mnerate a few states into a separate interest, adterse
to that general interest, comprised by the powers delegated to
the federal goyeroment* The Missouri compact or agfeemei^
was made by n^;otiator8 elected by the states to anstain the
existing federal union, and not to form two new confederations
of states, and to make a new compact between ti^m j in d^ng
so, the negotiators therefore exceeded their representattTO
powers, and their compact was void. The members of ^
HartfM'd convention had better powers ; they were chosen lor
the purpose of making a Hew compact between a few states,
and though it would hare been against the constitution, and a
subyersion of the union to do so, they would yet haye acted 1^
a representatiye authority. But, supposing that the members
of congress should be considered as genuine representatiyes of
tiie i^tes, cloAed with a power to make a new compact be*
tween them, yet no such compact could constitutionally be
made, by delegates or representatives, or tiie Hartford c6n«
▼ention was not reprehensible. The attempts, therefore, of
this convention and of congress vmere equally unconstitutional
because the old compact of union prohibits any new compact
between the states, except in the modes pointed out by the
constitution itself, in which modes both are equally deficient*

Slavery being an absurd motive for establishing the proposed
geographical division and balance of power, so positively for «
bidden, and so sedulously counteracted by the federal ccmsti-'
tution, because it cannot be permanent, and would destroy the
union; we are forced to look for some other, to unriddle tiie
sudden enthusiasm, ardentiy cultivated at this juncture ; and
to consider whether the true motiye is more favourable to a
lasting union and to good government, than the spurious one^
Considered only an instrument to efiect ends, the real question
to be considered is, whether these ends are good. The ends to
be effect^ are, a monopoly of the offices of government, and
iof the partialities of congress, by the means of this artificial and
fanciful geographical balance rf power. This must ensueb un-



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iteit tiie biliooe bf k^ perfectl J enOi and if it WM k^
the federal machine eould not more at all ; but it cannot be
jLept eveoy because it will be disordered by a sin^^ vote* and
the votes will be influenced by aTarke^an^tion and local calca-
latioaa. If we find it extremely difficult to sustain a diTisifni «f
power between the federal and state goYemments, defined fay
the federal constitution; what hope can exist of sustaining aa
undefined balance^ dependant upon the caprices and selfiskiesa
c^ fiuctuating individuals P Letiis suppose, that one of these ba-
lances should acquire a preponderance^ which would be certain^
and contemplate the consequences. It would absorb the offices
of government, and the favours of congress. Well, what good
would this do to the inhabitants of the preponderating balance ?
It might indeed gratify the avarice and ambition of a few indi-
viduals among them for a short space; but the people would
have the same sum to pay for the support of government, and
in the end much more, because by substitutiing personal avarice
;ind ambition for g^ieral good, an oppressive political principle
is introduced, of the bitterness of which, the people of the pret
ponderatii^ balance would very soon taste. It would i^so tend
atrongly towards the dissolution of the union, in the effects (tf
which tiie people of both balances would share. It is therefore
very plain, that the interest of the people in every state of the
union will be more advanced, by leaving appointments to be
made by a labyrintii of interests and opinions, as at present,
than by transferring them to a preponderating balance for the
purpose of gratifying personal avarice and ambition.

The end of monppoUs&ing the favours of congress, wouinds more
deeply the tr^e principles of the union. These were intended
to disable congress from granting internal favours, and commit-
ting internal partialities; but the design of obtaining them by
means of a preponderating balance, positively expresses an opi-
iiion, that congress has a power of exercising internal partiali-
ties; and this ofHnion expunges firom the federal constitution
the distinction between delegated and reserved powers, for
which the construction I have endeavoured to support, c,on<«
tends. The opposite construction, by its baleful success, has
already established the doctrine, that congress does possess this>
power, and suggested the idea of a preponderating balance, no^
to correct it, but to aggravate its operation | and to j^ther from.



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it the fruits it can yieM, without controul. The policj clcitrly
meditates an extension of internal usurpations, and is itself
one. If a lust of power, natural to man, has been sufficient to
induce congress, unmoulded into two diplomatick i>odks, tt
assume internal powers over persons and property, what will
be the consequence, when a preponderating geographical ba-
labce shall be able to play the whole game, and win of the light-
est, even by a single vote, under no restraint but that of its
own conscience ? Is there no difference between constitutional
restraints upon the frail^es of human nature, and the boundless
liberty they will derive from commuting these restraints fmr
the contemplated preponderating balance P Let us recite th6
succession of events. The great pecuniary favour granted by
congress to certificate-holders, begat banking; banking begat
bounties to manufacturing capitalists ; bounties to manufacture
ing capitalists begat an oppressive pension list ; these partialis
ties united to beget the Missouri project ; that prefect begat
the idea of using slavery as an instrument for eftlecting a ba*
lance of power ; when it is put in operation, it will beget new
usurpations of internal powers over persons and property, and
these will beget a dissolution of the union. The genealogy .ii
strictly consanguineous, and the prolificacy of the family ob«
viously natural. It furnishes complete materials for a tompa*
rison between the construction of the federal constitution,
which excludes congress from exercising internal powers ov^
persons and property, not expressly delegated; and one whk^h
lets it into this boundless field by inferences at enmity with the
meditated division and limitation of powers. A field, thick s^
with modes of transferring money from balance to balanee»
from states to states, and from persons to persons, cannot be
entered at all by congress, without provoking those feelings
which never fail to embroil nations with each other. The fede-
ral constitution proposed to shut (mt both tiie federal and state
governments from this perilous field, by excluding the former
from a power of bestowing money on some states and indivi-
duals at the eitpense of others, and the latter frx>m a power c{
exercising any stratagems to get money from a sister state. It
contemplated a political garden of Eden, planted with {ninci*
pies yielding fruit. nourishing to the community, and did not
design to invest mther the federid or state governments with •



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fQver to eradicate ihem, and aubstitiite a parasitical skmbberj*
enfeeUiog the good principles, and only nourishing serpents.
If the division of powers between the state and federal govern-
ments berooted out of the federal constitution* and the free-
flom of labour or of property should be lost, bj the temptations
«f the two devils, avarice and ambition, to induce le^slatures
io meddle with forbidden fruit, the essence of our political S79*
t;em will be destroyed, and with it our vaunted residence in a
region of political felicity.

The schema for creating the proposed balance of power, con-
sidered as addressed to the states, evidently required some
stupifying ]M*eparative tp induce them to swallow it.. Their
inclination and interest to keep their reserved powers was too
manifest to venture upon a proposition in direct terms, advisii^
them to surrender to congress a power of distributing internal
partialities ; and to divide themselves into two combinations, to
trj which should be able to gel the most of these pardalitie&
It was too absurd plainly to say to the states, "yield to con-
i^ gress your internal r%hts, for the sake of a chance to get
*< some of ^em back." The spectacle of slavery was therefm
a cunning device to draw their attention from home ; but let
them remember^ that those who forget their own pockets in a
fray, often lose their money.

I might stop here, and rest the constitutionality of the Mis-
souri question upon the positive prohibition of compacts or
agreements between the states; and its policy, upon, the very
visible conseq^iences which would follow the noti(m of the pro-
posed balance of power between two great combinations of
states : but I will proceed with the subject, becai^e it ought to
be considered in all its beariAgs^ by a great community, the
happiness of which it will materially affect.

The extremities of the union can neyer b§ made by law, to
think alike upon the subject of. slavery, because tlie evidence
respectively contemplated is entirely different in different
slates ; and therefore the idea of copsolidating the union by
coercions of opinion as to this sJEair, is as preposterous as iim
exploded idea of consolidating religion, by legal coercions upon
conscience. Compulsion in both cases is so evidently tyran-
{liqal, that it never fails to be met by resistance, whenever it is
practicable. Missouri has no ri^ht to coinp^l Maine ten admit



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of slaverjr, nor Maine any rig|ht to compel Misioim to pmldlii
it, becaase each state has a right to think for itself. A soi^-
ern majority in congress has no right to compel the nor&em
states to permit slavery, nor a norliiem majority to compel the
southern states to abolish it, because it is a dubject of internal
State regulation prohilnted to congress, and reserved to the
states. One and the same principle applies to the two rights of
suffering or abolishing slavery, and to assert and deny its effi-
cacy, will never operate any conviction upon tiie party whose
rights under it are invaded, by a party who clainffi and uses its
protection. It has been handled as a religious qaesdon, and
zeal, even in these modem times, has forgotten ^e freedom of
conscience, and adopted the antiquated plan of efl^cting con-
version by violence. The French nation, actuated at first by
an honest but intemperate enthusiasm, attempted to compel the
other nations of Europe to be free and happy ; an1d the events
produced by the fisinatical undertaking were such as may be
expected, should a combination of states attempt to adrntnister
by force the same medicines to another combination of states.
Nothing can be more offensive than such attempts, because
they assail natural rights ; nor more presumptuous, because ^e
dictators are infinitely worse informed upon the subject, than
those who have the right of determination. To prevent this
dictatorial and absurd exercise of power by a majority of states,
as being an infallible cause of civil war and disunion, congress
was not made a representation ci any internal powers, those
few excepted necessary for common safety ; and all internal
powers, except a few specified prohibitions, were reserved to
the states. The reasons for this policy which then existed,
still exist, and will exist forever. The members of congress
could never be well informed of local concerns, and therefore
could never decide upon them correctly. Vanity cannot supply
tiie place of knowledge. They would not feel the effects of
their local laws, and therefore congress as to local sut^ects
would not possess the best quality of a. representative body.
Above all, they would not decide like local representatives ;
this is so true, that if all the members of congress now opposiMi
to slavery in Misjsouri, should emigrate to that state, there is
no doubt but that most of them would soon change their opi-
inon. Indeed, this is the reason of the difference of opuudti



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tetw^entke eastern and soothern etttea upon the qvettion;
and if either placed in the circnmstances of the other8»,wonld
have adopted opimons the rererse of those now held, it forcibl j
displays the injustioe of a dictatoriid power to be exercised by
either party.

It is hi^ly edi^jring, in computii^ probaUe consequences,
to recollect similar cases* The society of Amis des Noirs in
I'raoce, zedous for amending the condition of the free people
of colour, and believing that a conscious philanthrophy was
local information, invested them with unqualified citizenship,
wrote the slaves into rebellion, finally liberated diem, and these
friends of the blacks tamed out to be the real murderers of the
whites. An intemperate zeal, united with an ignorance of
local circumstances, had to bewail the massacre of about forty
thousand ¥rhite men, women or children, of about thirty thou-
sand mulattoes, after they had united with the blacks in that
atrocity, of about one hundred thousand of the blacks them-
selves, and of dividing the residue into tyrants, and slaves to
tyrannical laws, always more oppressive than any other species
of slavery. These friends of the blacks in France disavowed
at first the design of emancipation ; but yet their speeches and
writings gradually awakened the discontents of the slaves, and
excited efforts which terminated in a catastrophe proving them
to have been the worst enemies of the whites. This awful
history engraves in the m<n^ code the consequences of a
I^slation exercised by those who are ignorant of local circum-
stances, and the wisdom of our distinction between internal
and external powers. The people of St. Domingo pressed
upon the general assembly of France, its ignorance of local
circumstances, and consequent incapacity to judge of the case;
but as St. Domingo had representatives in that assembly, it per-
sisted in its fanatical philanthrophy, and lost the finest island
in the world of its size. The eastern states have as littie know-
ledge of the Mississippi states, as the general assembly of
France had of St Domingo, and therefore the writings of the
friends of the blacks in the United States are almost exacdy
the same, with those which they uttered in France.

The next case is the memorable controversy betwaen Gk^at
Britain and her colonies. She msisted upon legislating for
them locally and internally. They replied, that her parliament



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had ]|«i a fufllcUwt koovrUdge of ttimr local drcnwiataiceg» to
do thU with any propiietj, and ttiat thej were not repres^tod
in that body* She at length proposed to remore the last ob}ec*
tion, and offisved them & repraaentatton. Bat thej dedmed it
upon the ground, that the same species of ignorance, so obvi-
onsiy oti^tionable» would still prcTail over a su^oritj of tfae^
members. And the disunion between Great Britain and her
colonies was caused by a dtam of internal legislation fin* a body
of men, whose'internal knowledge d* the countries, which were
to suffer it, was too imperfect to produce good laws* But there
was another cogent reason for r^ecting a fompromise with Eoi-
gland, upon the condition of a representation in parliament. It
was impossible that the essential qualities of representation



Online LibraryJohn TaylorConstruction construed, and constitutions vindicated → online text (page 29 of 34)