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spirit of accommodation which governed the convention; and without this indulgence no Union could have been formed. But, sir, considering some of the peculiar advantages which we derive from them, it is entirely just they should be gratified. The Southern States possess certain staples, tobacco, rice, indigo, &c.—which must be capital objects in treaties of commerce with foreign nations; and the advantages which they necessarily procure in these treaties will be felt throughout the United States. But the justice of this plan will appear in another view. The best writers on government have held that representation should be comprehended of persons and property. This rule has been adopted, as far as it could be, in the Constitution of New York. It will, however, be admitted that the slaves are not to be considered altogether as property. They are men, though degraded to the condition of slavery. They are persons known to the municipal laws of the States which they inhabit, as well as the laws of nature. But representation and taxation go together, and one uniform law ought to apply to both. Would it be just to compute these men in the assessment of taves, and discard them from the estimate in the apportionment of representatives * Would it be just to impose a singular burden, without conferring some adequate advantage **''
Mr. Melancthon Smith observed,
“He did not mean to alter the clause in apportioning the representatives as regards slaves. He thought they would have to give that up.” "
Mr. Harrison, speaking of the objection that had been made to the apportionment of the representatives, and the withdrawal of the objection by
Elliot's Reports, vol. i. p. 213. * Idem, vol. i. p. 218.
the person who made it, said, – “I think the concession does honor to the gentleman who had stated the objection. He has candidly acknowledged that this apportionment was the result of accommodation, without which no union could have been formed; ” and then went on, like the other debaters, considering the number that should be in the house of representatives that would be most likely to secure the liberties of the people.
Mr. Treadwell, a member of the convention, who was opposed to the adoption of the Constitution, on the ground it took away State rights, and, as he said, would produce a consolidated government, whereby the liberties of the people would ultimately be destroyed, in a speech, published as a supplement to the proceedings of the convention, though not delivered, remarked, among other strong objections, –
“There is another clause in this Constitution, which, though there is no prospect of getting it amended, I think ought not to be passed over in silence, lest such a silence should be construed into a tacit approbation of it. I mean the clause which restricts the general government from putting a stop, for a number of years, to a commerce which is a stain to the commerce of any civilized nation, and has already blackened half of the plains of America with a race of wretches, made so by our cruel policy and avarice, and which appears to me to be repugnant to every principle of humanity, morality, religion, and good policy.”
Further on he says, –
! Elliot's Reports, vol. i. p. 241.
“If we act with coolness, firmness, and decision, on this occasion, I have the fullest confidence that the God who has so lately delivered us out of the paw of the lion and of the bear, will also deliver us from this Goliath, this uncircumcised Philistine. This government is founded in sin, and reared up in iniquity; the foundations are laid in the most singular breach of public trust, and the top stone is the most iniquitous breach of public faith; and I fear, if it goes into operation, we shall be justly punished by the total extinction of our civil liberties. We are invited, in this instance, of becoming partakers in other men's sins; if we do, we must likewise be content to take our share in the punishment.” On the whole, this letter, or speech, was one as firm and as good as any that appears among the whole that was made on the adoption of the Constitution. It would appear he left the Convention, as some, also, of the Massachusetts delegation did, because they would not even have it supposed they gave countenance for a moment to what they thought would injure their own liberties or that of the colored man’s. The Constitution was adopted with the “full confidence ’’ that the amendments they had proposed would be incorporated in the instrument, these amendments being accompanied with a bill of rights. These were thirty-three in number, and had more or less reference to the liberty of the individual. The vote was, yeas 30, nays 27, − a majority, it will be perceived, very small. If Mr. Treadwell had voted, the Constitution would have been accepted but by two votes. The guaranty that New York gave was not very strong, at the best ; and, if Mr. Hamilton's account of the matter is correct, the “capital articles for making treaties — tobacco, rice, indigo,” &c. – (cotton, it appears, was not then a staple) had the effect to stop all tongues, and to make them acquiesce in a transaction which, as was observed by Mr. Smith, it would be admitted was founded on unjust principles; which very admission, if true, in itself would cause the whole transaction to be a nullity. For what business or right has any body of men to assemble, and make rules for the government of society, which they themselves acknowledge to be unjust 2 The counterfeiter, the pirate, the robber, can do no more ; and the slimsy excuses made by Mr. Hamilton, to justify the transaction, do but show he could not well justify the case. He says New York, in her legislation, acknowledges that property, as well as individuals, should be represented; and, as negroes at the South were considered such, therefore they should be represented. But he immediately says they were not wholly considered as property, but as individuals: “they were persons known to our municipal courts.” We will ask, if such was the case, are they not responsible persons? Can our courts of law take cognizance of things, and bring things to trial? Mr. Hamilton could not but be aware of the false position in which he was placed, and in which the country was placed, in regard to this thing. But the “capital” articles, and, as we may suppose, the obstinate perseverance of the delegates from Georgia and South Carolina, together with the prejudices and the known degradation and ignorance of the colored man, and Mr. H.’s want of sympathy with the lower classes of society, and his want of faith that they could by any possibility of circumstances take care of themselves, induced him to act the part he did. A man, in other respects so just, and whose character for honesty and uprightness was so preeminent, makes himself appear in a light not so enviable as could be wished, when he takes a step so opposed to natural justice. To make a man amenable to laws, and yet not give him the power over himself to enable him to obey, and even give another the sole control of his person, while it might be considered by some good theology, could not, by men of sound judgment, be considered good law. No 1 the foundation of all law presupposes the ability to obey, or otherwise it should be considered no law. For why should a person attempt to do that which it is well known cannot be done 2 or, if unrestrained, and the person was left free to act, it could be done, yet, being restrained, and obliged to act according to the will and command of another, must not the responsibility of his acts rest on that other ? But it may be said the slave is not brought before our courts but for some heinous crime, of which the master may know nothing, or even it may be a crime against the master. But this cannot be a valid objection, because, when a man is placed at the sole will of another, and is made a chattel personal, he at once takes the place