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but it passes them by: placed like Tantalus of old, the refreshing water of liberty rises to their lips, but they are never able to drink of its refreshing stream; and, unless some come to their relief, they must, for succeeding ages, die in their distress, without being able to say, “I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; naked, and ye clothed me; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me.” But we trust they will not long have to make this complaint, but that the South, as well as the North, will, when they become sensible of the cruelties the South is practising, be induced to render to her citizens that justice they have a right to demand, and which she ought to give; and we shall find, when the word liberty is expressed in any of our public meetings, it will not be considered out of place, or any portion of the hearers manifest signs of discomfiture, as if its sound grated on their ears. In giving the above extracts from the Secret Proceedings of the Convention, it will be observed there does not appear to be any thing on which we could at once make up a judgment. The observations of Mr. Martin explain more fully the inducements which actuated the different members than can be gathered from the debates; but, from what are given to the public, -and we believe we have given all that was said directly upon the subject of slavery, either on the one side or on the other, — we cannot but deduce the idea that liberty was to be the basis on which the government was to be founded. If other ideas were advanced or insinuated, none dared openly to express them; and we have only to regret they have been expressed louder than a whisper since, and that it has been thought necessary to calculate the value of the Union, or, in other words, to establish an aristocracy upon the ruins of democracy, which, must inevitably be the case, if slavery be much longer continued. Mr. Edmund Randolph, in a letter addressed to the house of delegates of Virginia, upon the subject of adopting the Constitution, says, in speaking of the equality of suffrage, &c.— “I hope Virginia will be seconded by a majority of the States. I hope she will be seconded, first, in causing all ambiguities to be precisely explained; then in preventing the eligibility of the president, — of his power of nominating the judiciary, and filling vacancies during the recess of congress; and, second, in taking from him the power of pardoning treason, in drawing the line between the powers of congress and of the individual States, in abridging the power of the senate, in incapacitating congress in determining their own salaries,” and “in limiting and defining the judiciary power.” Whether he saw, in any of the powers he wished to restrain, any that would bear on the peculiar institutions of the South, or whether he thought them detrimental to liberty in general, we are not able to say; but this we think he might have seen in the powers given to the judiciary, - a power sufficient to curb the South in her prosecuting the slave system; and if he did, and was at all anxious this system should be continued, there were sufficient reasons for his anxiety on the subject.
C H A P T E R W I.
WE have now passed over the Secret Proceedings of the Convention, which recommended the Constitution to congress, and, through it, to the several States. We have seen, in some measure, the anxiety that was felt that a Constitution should be adopted, the objections made, the influence that slavery exerted, and the attempt made to incorporate it into that instrument, and the manner that attempt was frustrated. This, together with the struggle between the large States and small ones, independently of the slavery question, was almost the only point that produced any protracted discussion, and prevented any decision at once of the kind of government to be adopted. On the part of some, a confederation of the States was urged, and these desired the old Confederation should be amended; while those of the larger States wanted to have a weight in the government proportioned to their population: this, after long and laborious discussion, was settled by a compromise. o
The framing of the language of the Constitution, in those parts that are said to relate to slavery, and have been acted on as such, show what care was used, and what exertions were made, by those who were opposed to the obnoxious practice of holding slaves, to prevent this practice, as a system, being incorporated in the body politic. However great the exertions to the contrary, unless a complete and entire perversion of the meaning of words is made, saving in the instance where the “three fifths of all other persons” was named, (which may have, or may not have, any meaning at all,) no person could make the language apply to slaves; and, being so, we must suppose the friends of freedom gained the day, expecting, though the South might not give up their slaves immediately, they would yet so do in a short time. And, although there was no eapress provision in the Constitution as reported, that would give the slave his rights, yet, if the purposes for which it was adopted, as expressed in its caption, should be truly carried into effect, slavery would be destroyed by them. We will now make a few quotations from the Federalist. This book, it is well known, was written by Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Madison, for the purpose of recommending and explaining the Constitution that had been proposed to the people of this country for its adoption. It was published in successive numbers over the signature of Publius, in the newspapers of that day, and afterward they were collected and put into a volume, having the above title prefixed. They were written in concert by the gentlemen named above, who took upon themselves to answer the objections that were made to the Constitution, on its being published to the world, with their attempt to do away any wrong impressions that might be entertained respecting its object, and the purposes that induced the convention to promulgate it. They undoubedly had much influence at the time to satisfy the American people of the good intentions of those who framed it, and the advantages that might be expected to result from its being carried into execution. Great fear was expressed throughout the coun
try that liberty would be endangered, and power
ful objections, on that account, were brought against its adoption. Consequently, great anxiety was felt by its friends that all the real objections against it should be answered, and that it should be made at least to appear as perfect as possible. These gentlemen, therefore, undertook its defence, and the various conventions that were called were undoubtedly more or less influenced in their decisions by these writings. These gentlemen stood high in the affections of the people, and much confidence was placed in their judgment. In these papers, we shall find they asserted that the foundation principle of this government was liberty; that it was for the security of this that they proposed this system of government. They believed liberty could not be secured without there being a power some where, sufficiently great to keep in check any outbreak arising from the ambition of individuals, or the turbulence of the multitude, or attacks from external foes. Whether