Imágenes de páginas

of the brute, and can be no otherwise amenable than as the brute : he may commit a trespass like the ox, but the master must assume the responsibility of the trespass. And here let us remark, is there not a fearful responsibility resting upon the shoulders of those who claim the control of the acts of slaves? and, when a man presumes to take this control, does he not in effect say, let the punishment of his crimes rest on me and my children 2 We think so. But, whatever may be thought on this subject, we cannot but suppose the men of that age perceived the inconsistency of thus blending the character of the man with the brute, and the slender thread that held slavery together; and that, if justice once prevailed in the courts, it would bring an end to the whole system. We shall shortly see that it was expected such might take place; and strong objections were made to the Constitution on this very ground, - that our judiciary would be called on for a decision in the case. As a number of years has passed away, we hope the time is now fast approaching, when a better understanding on this subject will be more generally diffused, and a more correct idea of the general principles and the purposes of and for which this government was adopted instilled, not only in the minds of our Northern people, but in those of the South; or perhaps we should rather say, when the mind of this people can be brought back to contemplate and carry out the doctrines on which the revolution of this country was brought about, and for which, as the preamble of our Constitution expressly declares, that instrument was given to the country to secure. We do trust there will be a different action on this subject, and our colored brother may take courage. Let him remember no exception was made to him, - not a word left on the records; but the doctrines of those days applied to him equally with the white man; and, though he may have been looked upon with feelings of disrespect, of cupidity, and of avarice, and as a being over whom they could lord it unrestrained, yet, in the main, a better feeling bore sway: some felt, with deep commiseration, his unfortunate lot, and exerted their utmost efforts to produce a proper feeling as regarded his situation, and succeeded in establishing principles which, we trust, will not only work out his salvation from political and slavish bondage, but every individual, of whatever color or complexion he may be, who may happen to come within the borders of the United States, or step a foot on the shores of America. When it can be said of this land, as it is now said of Britain, – “Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are free: They touch our country, and their shackles fall,”—

when such shall be the case, then will the true idea, which apparently actuated the men who have spent their exertions in the cause of liberty and of freedom, be established ; then will that glorious day be ushered in, which has been looked forward to with such anxiety by those who have the welfare of mankind at heart, and who have, in all ages, distinguished themselves as the lovers of their species. For, let us consider, if slavery should be abolished in this country, it undoubtedly would soon be in all parts of the world. Let but America use the same determination to put a stop to slavery that England is now doing, and the traffic in slaves and the using of slave labor would soon cease in every land.

[ocr errors]


THE proceedings in this State, as well as those in Massachusetts, are highly interesting. The members who composed these two conventions were among the most distinguished men of the land. It undoubtedly was through the influence of these men that the Constitution was brought forward, and finally adopted. They appear to have taken extensive and enlarged views on the science of government, and to have weighed, with as much exactness as appeared in their power, the various evils and advantages to be feared and to be derived from the adoption of that instrument. History was ransacked for examples and for similitudes; objections to former governments were pointed out, and, if possible, were to be avoided. The powers given to the present government were scanned with eagle eyes; no point escaped their observation. The bearing of its different provisions was looked into, its implied powers were commented on with a great deal of ability, and no stone appeared to be left unturned that seemed, in any manner, to conceal a grant that would invest too much power in the hands of those who should be called upon to govern. They seemed to be conscious they were legislating, not for themselves alone, but for posterity, - for millions yet unborn. In the convention of Virginia, the discussion extended over a wide field. Patrick Henry took a part in opposition to the Constitution: he exerted his utmost eloquence to prevent its adoption; he thought it was fraught with evil; he was fearful it would result in a monarchy; he thought there was too much power given to the executive, the legislature, and the courts; he thought the Confederation was good enough, that the States and the country were getting along well enough, though the Confederation needed some amendments. He was zealous for state rights; he was anxious they should not relinquish those rights to . a federal head; but they should depend on themselves, rather than on external powers for government. In fact, he seemed to think all government was a necessary evil; he therefore was jealous, extremely so, of any authority, either expressed or implied; and he kept that convention in a continued ferment and discussion upon the various principles involved in the instrument proposed for their adoption. Marshall, Madison, Randolph, Grayson, Nicholason, Mason, and others, put forth their utmost powers, either in support of, or in opposition to, the views entertained by Mr. Henry. Their discussions were consequently long and arduous; they, however, were full of interest, as they show very distinctly the character and feel

« AnteriorContinuar »