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it had never been in the power of congress to follow that rule, the returns from the several States being so very imperfect.”
On a question being asked by Mr. Widgery, “if a boy of six years of age was to be considered a freeman,” Mr. King answered,
“All persons born free were to be considered freemen; and, to make the idea of taxation by numbers more intelligible, said five negro children of South Carolina are to pay as much tax as the three governors of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.”” “Judge Dana asked, ‘Can that land flourish like this which is cultivated by the hands of freemen 2 and are not three of these independent freemen of more real advantage to the State than five of those poor slaves **** “Mr. Nason remarked, “Mr. King ought to have gone further, and have said three of our children in the cradle are to be rated as high as five of the working negroes of Virginia, and it will then appear that this State will pay as great a tax for three children in the cradle as any of the Southern States for five hearty, working negroes; and, as it was hinted we had made a bad bargain before, we ought to make a better one now.’” “Mr. Dawes observed, the colored people of the Southern States must be considered as slaves or freemen; if the former, and consequently as so much property, why should it not be wholly represented 2 but our own laws. and Constitution consider blacks as freemen, and so, also, does our own natural justice. If, then, as freemen, they ought to be wholly represented. In either view, he could
* Elliot's Reports, vol. i. p. 56. 2 Idem, vol. i. p. 57. 3 Idem, vol. i. p. 57. * Idem, vol. i. p. 58., * Idem, vol. i. p. 58.
not see that northern men would suffer, but directly the contrary. He thought, however, that the passage ought to be considered in the convention with that other portion of the Constitution, that prohibits the slave-trade in 1808, and that it was left to the option of all the States to totally prohibit the introduction of slaves into any of the States; and he asked, what could the convention do more ? The members of the Southern States, like ourselves, had their prejudices. It would not do to abolish slavery by an act of congress in a moment, and so destroy what our southern brethren considered as property. But we may say, that although slavery is not smitten by an apoplexy, yet it has received a mortal wound, and will die of consumption.”
Messrs. King, Gore, and Parsons spoke of the advantage to the Northern States the apportionment of taxes gave them ; as also the Hon. Judge Dana, who, in concluding his remarks, observed, - “I would rather be annihilated than to give my voice for, or sign my name to, a Constitution which, in the least, would betray the liberties or interest of my country.””
It may, perhaps, be well to remark here, though we have before entered pretty largely on this question, how completely the southern people have thrown off the advantage which our northern statesmen thought they had gained over the south by this system of taxation. Finding, as undoubtedly they must have done, how onerous it would be to pay a direct tax on each of their slaves, they immediately took advantage of the disposi
Elliot's Reports, vol. i. p. 60. * Idem, vol. i. p. 63.
tion manifested at the North to raise a revenue on imports. The mechanics' of the North wishing to have their labor protected, and the South wishing to get rid of this direct tax, both succeeded in their wishes, and consequently a tariff on foreign articles was adopted. By this step, though opposed by much of the intelligence of the North, the South, in consequence of the small quantity of foreign products used by her slaves, has thrown a good portion of the expenses of the government upon the non-slaveholding States. The grand bargain made by our accomplished statesman has, in the end, like all such bargains, turned out but a sorry affair; and we, their children, have not much to boast of their acuteness in such matters, unless we have the charity to suppose they intended it should bear with such weight upon the holders of slaves the masters would be glad to let them go ; and, if so, we have only to regret they were not holden to their bargain. We would also have the observations made by Mr. Dawes remembered, particularly when he speaks of the power of congress: “It would not do to abolish slavery by an act of congress in a moment.” But to return :
“Mr. Widgery insisted we had a right to be jealous of our rulers, who ought never to have power they could abuse ; ” “ and in another place observed, “He hoped the gentleman would not think hard of it if we,
ignorant men, cannot see as clear as he does. The
* See proceedings of a meeting held in the Green Dragon, Boston, just before the sitting of the convention. * Elliot's Reports, vol. i. p. 49.
strong must bear the infirmities of the weak; and it must be a weak mind indeed that could throw such illiberal reflections against gentlemen of education as the honorable gentleman complains of. To return to the paragraph : If congress,” continued Mr. W. “have this power of taxing directly, it will be in their power to enact a poll tax. Can gentlemen tell why they will not oppose it, and by this means make the poor pay as much as the rich 2 ''' “Mr. Fuller was at a loss to tell how taxation and representation went hand in hand, when the requisition made on Massachusetts was thirteen times as great as that made on Georgia, when she sent eight representatives, and Georgia but three, [the question was asked Mr. Gerry..] Mr. Gerry answered, Georgia had increased its numbers by immigration; and if it had not then, it soon would have, enough to entitle it to the portion assigned her.”” “Mr. Varnum said the States of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, for two or three years, had in the field half of the continental army under Gen. Washington, and he thought, therefore, congress should have the power of laying taxes, in order to make the different States pay their proportion.” " “Mr. Widgery was opposed to the Constitution: his arguments were, — the Confederation was well enough, and he was not afraid of foreign enemies.” “Mr. Neal went over the ground of objections to this section, on the idea the slave-trade was allowed to be continued for twenty years. His profession, he said, obliged him to bear witness against any thing that should favor the making merchandise of the bodies of men; and, unless his objection was removed, he could not put his hand to the Constitution. Other gentlemen said, in addition to this idea, that there was not even a proposition that the colored man should ever be free, and Gen. Thompson exclaimed, “Mr. President, shall it be said, after we have established our own independence and freedom, we make slaves of others ? O ! Washington,' what a name he has had How he has immortalized himself but he holds those in slavery who have as good a right to be free as he has ; he is still for self, and, in my opinion, his character has sunk fifty per cent.””” “On the other side, it was said that the step taken in this article towards the abolition of slavery was one of the beauties of the Constitution. They observed that, in the Confederation, there was no provision whatever for its being abolished; but this Constitution provides that congress may, after twenty years, totally annihilate the slave-trade, and that all the States except two had passed laws to this effect. It might reasonably be expected it would be done. In the interim all the States were at liberty to prohibit it.” “The debate of this ninth section, as the reporter observed, continued desultory, and consisted of similar objections and answers thereto as had been before used. Both sides deprecated the slave-trade in the most pointed terms. On one side it was pathetically lamented by Mr. Nason, Major Lash, Mr. Neal, and others, that this Constitution provided for the continuance of the slavetrade for twenty years. On the other, the Hon. Judge Dana, Mr. Adams, and others, rejoiced that a door was now opened for the annihilation of this odious and abhorrent practice in a certain time.”
* Elliot's Reports, vol. i. p. 63. * Idem, vol. i. p. 64. * Idem, vol. i. p. 92.