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for liberty as those who opposed its adoption. He thought the idea of corruption in congress, and in the courts, imaginary; that the people had reserved to themselves all their important rights; that the Constitution was so constructed that “the rulers of the people were vested with certain defined powers, and that what was not delegated to those rulers was retained by the people; that the consequence of this was, that the limited powers were only an exception to those that were vested in the people; that they knew what they had given up, and could be in no danger.”” What are these rights, of which Mr. Lee speaks, . that are retained by the people 2 certainly not the rights of the States, for he speaks of the rights of the people. We can form no idea of any other rights than those of which Mr. Jefferson spoke in the Declaration of Independence; the inalienable rights of which every man is possessed, and which the people, in forming their government, retained : it was not the liberty of the States of which he spoke. Gov. Randolph also spoke in answer to Mr. Henry in defence of the Constitution. He alluded to what Mr. Henry had said in regard to Holland and Switzerland; he thought his objections and comparisons were not correct; and, though he had objections which he had given in a public letter, and which we have, in part, quoted in another place, yet he was anxious to have the Constitution
! Elliot's Reports, vol. ii. p. 156.
adopted, because it would secure the liberties of the people. He said the coercive power of the Confederation was totally void, and that the people had long been convinced of it, and that this conviction was manifest to the world ; that the general government ought to be vested with powers competent to our safety, or else the necessary consequence must be that we shall be defenceless.
“We are told, in strong language, of dangers to which we shall be exposed unless we adopt this Constitution. Among the rest, domestic safety is said to be in danger. This government does not attend to our domestic safety. It authorizes the importation of slaves for twenty-oneyears, and thus continues upon us that nefarious trade. Instead of securing and protecting us, the continuance of this detestable trade adds daily to our weakness. Though this evil is increasing, there is no clause in the Constitution that will prevent the Northern and Eastern States from meddling with our whole property of that kind. There is a clause to prohibit the importation of slaves after twenty years, but there is no provision made for securing to the Southern States those they now possess. It is far from being a desirable property, but it will involve us in great difficulty and infelicity to be now deprived of them. There ought to be a clause in the Constitution to secure us that property which we have acquired under former laws, and the loss of which would bring ruin on a great many people.”
He concluded by saying he wished for amendments.
Mr. Randolph here says expressly there is “no clause in the Constitution ” to prevent the
* Elliot's Reports, vol. ii. p. 212.
Northern and Eastern States from meddling with “their whole property,” and “that there was no provision made for securing to the Southern States those they’” then “possessed.” The subject was left open, and, no doubt, intentionally so by many. Mr. Lee even finds fault with Mr. Randolph for making these objections, and points out to him his inconsistency: he seemed to think it right and proper that this property should be interfered with. We hope and trust there are a good many Virginians who yet think the North has a right to meddle with slavery, and that they will not think it necessary much longer to hold their peace, but will join the North in their endeavors to scout the abomination from their State, and redeem it from the foul disgrace which the practices of the slaveholder and the slavebreeder are bringing upon it. It will be perceived the inconsistency of Mr. Randolph is similar to that of Mr. Henry's, and is equally beyond our power to explain, unless it may be ascribed to what he calls the “infelicity’” of doing without their slaves; in other words, though they liked liberty themselves, they were too great lovers of their own ease to labor. Mr. Lee, of Westmoreland, speaking of Mr. Randolph's speech, says, –
“The honorable gentleman abominates it, [the Constitution,] because it does not prohibit the importation of slaves, and because it does not secure the continuance of the existing slavery ! Is it not obviously inconsistent to criminate it for two contradictory reasons? I submit it to the consideration of the gentleman whether, if it be reprehensible in the one case, it can be censurable in the other?” " Mr. Grayson observed, – “They have the candor to acknowledge that taxes on slaves would not affect the Eastern States, and that taxes on fish and potash would not affect the Southern States. They are then reduced to this dilemma. In order to support this part of the system they are obliged to counteract the first maxim of representation. The best writers on this subject lay it down as a fundamental principle, that he who lays a tax shall bear his proportion of paying it.”” Will not the logic here hold good, that he who makes a law shall help bear its burden; and, consequently, any laws in which the slaves have no voice cannot be binding on the slave ; and, as a further consequence, that all such laws must be a nullity, void from the moment (if it will not be considered an Irishism) of their enactment, and of no rightful force, no one who was not permitted to have a voice, either pro or con in their promulgation, being at all bound by them 2 We take it so ; and consequently these writers, on whom Mr. Grayson relies for authority, would consider American slavery to be upheld alone by the right of the strongest, and not by any equitable laws; and no laws are binding on a person situated as the slave is, unless they relate to morals, and then not because they are the laws of man, but of God. Mr. Pendleton, in answer to some of Mr. Henry’s remarks, observed,
“On the subject of government, the worthy member and I differ at the threshold. I think government necessary to protect liberty; he supposes the American spirit all-sufficient for the purpose. What say the most respectable writers, – Montesquieu, Locke, Sidney, Harrington, &c. * They have presented us with no such idea. They properly discard from their system all the severity of cruel punishments, such as tortures, inquisitions, and the like, – shocking to human nature, and only calculated to coerce the dominion of tyrants over slaves. But they recommend making the ligaments of government firm, and a rigid execution of the laws as more necessary than in monarchy, to preserve that virtue which they all declare to be the pillar on which the government and liberty, its object, must stand. They are not so visionary as to suppose there ever did, or ever will, exist a society, however large their aggregate fund of virtue may be, but hath among them persons of a turbulent nature, restless in themselves, and disturbing the peace of others, – sons of rapine and violence, who, unwilling to labor themselves, are watching every opportunity to snatch from the industrious peasant the fruits of his honest labor. Was I not then correct in my inference that such a government and liberty were friends and allies, and that their common enemy was turbulence, faction, and violence 2 They are those, therefore, who will be affected by good government; and for those, I suppose, no gentleman will profess himself an advocate. The writers just mentioned point out licentiousness as the natural offspring of liberty, and that, therefore, all free governments should endeavor to suppress it, or else it will overthrow that liberty of which it is the result. Is this speculation only 2 Alas, reason and experience too fatally prove its truth in all instances! A republican government is the nursery of science. It turns the bent