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Constitution if its provisions be properly carried into effect As Judge Parsons may be considered good authority in this case, we must suppose the individual, wherever situated, and of whatever complexion, has these natural rights, of which he cannot by any laws be deprived; and if they are taken away it cannot be considered lawful; and, consequently, any claim over these rights must be a “nullity,” being in opposition to natural justice and our Constitution. “Mr. Stillman was in favor of the Constitution without the amendments, only as he thought it sufficiently guaranteed the liberties of the people.” Hon. Mr. Turner made an excellent speech in favor of the Constitution with the amendments." Mr. Symms, who had opposed the Constitution as it was, but who was desirous one should be adopted, observed, - “When his excellency the president came forward, as became his high office, in the character of a mediator, a ray of hope shot in upon the gloom that overspread his heart, of hope that we should still be united in the grand decision 1 Speaking of the amendments, he said, - Our committee, sir, are pretty well agreed as to the amendments necessary to be made ; and, in their report, it appears that these amendments are equally beneficial to ALL of the citizens of America. There is nothing local in them. Shall we then totally reject the Constitution because we are only morally certain they will be adopted 2 Shall we choose certain misery in one way, when we have the best human prospect of enjoying our most sanguine wishes in another P God forbid!””
! Elliot's Reports, vol. i. p. 171. * Idem, vol. i. p. 173.
He concluded his speech by saying, —
“He withdrew his opposition from the consciousness that the amendments would be adopted. That from the known influence that Massachusetts held in the nation, and that they would be the standing instructions of the delegates in congress to urge their adoption, he concluded there would be no doubt of their ultimate success; and, consequently, by withdrawing his opposition, and conceiving the utmost need there was for a constitution for the country, he felt himself acquitted by his own conscience ; he hoped and trusted he should be by his constituents, and [laying his hand on his breast] I know I shall before God.”
The time having arrived for taking the question, as to the adoption of the Constitution, the president made a short address. Among other things, he said,
“I should consider it one of the most distressing misfortunes of my life to be deprived of giving my aid and support to a system which, if amended (and I feel assured it will be) according to your proposals, cannot fail to give the people of the United States a greater degree of political freedom, and, eventually, as much national dignity, as falls to the lot of any nation on earth.”
After the vote had been taken, 187 yeas, 168 nays, most of those gentlemen who had opposed its adoption stated they should not continue their opposition, but should, as they had been fairly beaten, give in their adhesion, hoping it might prove the blessing that its advocates thought it would produce.
The convention closed its proceedings by saying, —
“That, in acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodmess of the Supreme Ruler of the universe, in affording the people of the United States, in the course of his providence, an opportunity deliberately and peaceably, without fraud or surprise, of entering into an explicit and solemn compact with each other, by assenting to and ratifying a new Constitution, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, Do, in the name, and in behalf, of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, assent to and ratify the said Constitution for the United States of America.”!
After so much had been said in the convention of Massachusetts, it may be thought surprising the amendments were not more pointed and distinct on the subject of slavery; and, because they were not, it must be presumed General Thompson expressed himself as indignantly as he did. Yet, if the principles they embodied should be carried out—and no doubt it was hoped and expected they would be—and as the amendments actually adopted were more distinct, there can be no reason to suppose but those amendments should be applied in the broadest sense, and be considered as having, if not exclusively, certainly a distinct reference to the condition of the slave. In the great anxiety to have a Constitution by a good portion of the
1 Elliot's Reports, vol. i. p. 176.
people of Massachusetts, and particularly among the leading men of those times, and fearing the consequences if they did not succeed, we may suppose they might be as guarded as they dare be, lest they might destroy a fabric which, as they all declared, they meant should be a palladium for the general liberties of the country. Mr. Dawes was the only one, so far as is reported, who made any allusion to the prejudice that was then existing against the colored race : he seems to acknowledge that the South, as well as the North, possessed it; and that was the reason why the three fifths representation was adopted. All the others were either silent on the subject, or else spoke in decided terms of the iniquity of slavery, and the abhorrence with which they viewed the whole subject. But they all seemed to think that the stopping of the slave-trade would consummate the overthrow of slavery; and it was against that they mostly directed their remarks, thinking, if that traffic was made to cease, slavery would cease with it. In reviewing these interesting proceedings, we cannot but remark the firmness and love of liberty which, with perhaps few exceptions, displayed itself in all of the observations of the men composing this convention, nor help remarking the determined opposition, to the very last, made to slavery and its continuance and the impossibility of having a constitution adopted at all, without the almost positive assurance that such provisions, in the form of amendments, should be made as would prevent the personal tyranny practised in a State where slavery existed ; and although scarce one in the whole convention, so far as the debates are reported, but appeared anxious for a constitution, and that there should be one similar to the one before them, yet we find, on account of the obnoxious paragraphs, which might be construed as having relation to the colored man, there was but nineteen majority in its favor, and many of these said they should vote in its favor simply on the ground that the amendments which the convention proposed would be adopted. And, as we find, these, with others securing the rights of the individual in a distinct manner, were adopted. Where, we ask, is the vaunted declaration, that the Constitution guarantees slavery Where, even, is the compact The facts are, though South Carolina and Georgia, together with a few slaveholders out of these States, and Virginia and North Carolina, afterwards attempted, in their several State conventions, to force the acknowledgement of slavery on the Union, the other States would not agree to it; but, on the contrary, caused such amendments to be made as to give equal rights to all, as one member of this convention said, to those on the banks of the Savannah as well as to those on the margin of the Kennebec; and now, whether Georgia or South Carolina agreed to these amendments or not, so long as they agreed two thirds of the States could make amendments, and have remained in the Union after they were adopted, it cannot be otherwise