Imágenes de páginas

sanction to that institution, they are but sealing, their own fate : they themselves must be prepared to receive the galling yoke. Slavery, if it is allowed to be continued at all, will not feel as if it should be confined within metes and bounds. If it is a good and a blessing at the South, what should prevent its being such at the North? Such will be the arguments; and, if they are correct, the consequence must follow. Arouse, then, freemen of the North, while ye may! Shake off the shackles, and spurn the slaveholder's whip! Give him assurances that you will have no fellowship with him, that you desire not his company, and wish he may not come into your assemblies !

But Mr. Wilson continues, —

“ It is urged, as a general objection to this system, that the powers of congress are unlimited and undefined, and that they will be judges, in all cases, of what is neces

and proper for them to do.' To bring this subject to your view, I need no more than to point to the words in the Constitution, beginning at the 8th section, article ist : • The congress [it says] shall have power,' &c. I need not read the whole of the words, but I leave it to every gentleman to say whether the powers are not as accurately defined as can be well done on the same subject, in the same language. The old Constitution is as strongly marked on this subject; and even the concluding clause, with which so much fault has been found, gives no more or other powers, nor does it in any degree go beyond the particular enumeration ; for, where it is said that congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper, these words are limited and


defined by the following, for carrying into execution the foregoing powers. It is saying no more than that the powers we have already particularly given shall be effectually carried into execution.” 2

After speaking of the manner that electors were to be chosen, he says,

“ This being made the criterion of the right of suffrage, it is consequently secured, because the same Constitution guarantees to every State of the Union a republican form of government. The right of suffrage is fundamental to republics.

“Sir, there is another principle that I beg leave to mention, - representation and direct taxation, under this Constitution, are to be according to numbers." S

How has this proved? Why, the North has had to pay the greater proportion of this tax : it has not fallen upon numbers at all. The slave, as we have said, uses but few foreign goods, while the freeman uses the most that are imported, and consequently pays the expenses of government.

“ I recollect, on a former day, the honorable gentleman from Westmoreland, [Mr. Finley,) and the honorable gentleman from Cumberland, [Mr. Whitehall,] took exception against the first clause of the 9th section, article 1st. Arguing very unfairly that, because congress might impose a tax or duty of ten dollars on the importation of slaves within any of the United States, congress might therefore permit slaves to be imported within this State, contrary to its laws, I confess I little thought this system would be objected to.

1 See remarks on the powers of congress on page 196.
2 Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 263. 3 Idem, vol. iii. p. 274.

“I am sorry it could be extended no further; but, so far as it operates, it presents us with the pleasing prospect that the rights of man will be acknowledged and established throughout the Union.

“ If there was no other lovely feature but this one, it would diffuse a beauty over its whole countenance. Yet, the lapse of a few years ! and congress will have power to exterminate slavery from within our borders !

“ How would such a delightful prospect expand the breast of a benevolent and philanthropic European ! Would he cavil at an expression ? catch at a phrase ? No, sir ; that is reserved for the gentlemen on the other side of your chair to do. What would be the exultation of that great man [Gen. Washington] whose name I have just now mentioned, we may learn from the following sentiments on this subject : they cannot be expressed so well as in his own words :

66. The colonies of France contain, as we have seen, near five hundred thousand slaves ; and it is from the number of these wretches that the inhabitants set a value upon their plantations. What a fatal prospect, and how profound a subject for reflection ! Alas! how inconsequent we are, both in our morality and our principles ! We preach up humanity, and yet go every year to bind in chains twenty thousand natives of Africa! We call the Moors barbarians and ruffians, because they attack the liberty of Europeans at the risk of their own; yet these Europeans go without danger, and as mere speculators, to purchase slaves, by gratifying the cupidity of their masters, and excite all those bloody scenes which are usually the preliminaries of such traffic. In short, we pride ourselves on the superiority of man, and it is with reason we discover this superiority in the wonderful and mysterious unfolding of the intellectual faculties; and yet the trifling difference in the hair of the head,

or in the color of the epidermis, is sufficient to change our respect into contempt, and to engage us to place beings like ourselves in the rank of those animals devoid of reason, whom we subject to the yoke, that we may make use of their strength and of their instincts at com-mand.

"I am sensible, and I grieve at it, that these reflections, which others have made much better than me, are unfortunately of very little use! The necessity of supporting sovereign power has its peculiar laws, and the wealth of nations is one of the foundations of this power : thus the sovereign who should be the most thoroughly convinced of what is due to humanity would not singly renounce the service of slaves in his colonies : time alone could furnish a population of free persons to replace them; and the great difference that would exist in the price of labor would give so great an advantage to the nation that should adhere to the old custom, that the others would soon be discouraged in wishing to be more virtuous. And yet would it be a chimerical project to propose a general compact, by which all of the European nations should unanimously agree to abandon the traffic in African slaves ? They would in that case find themselves exactly in the same proportion relative to each other as at present; for it is only on comparative riches that the calculations of power are founded.

5. We cannot as yet indulge such hopes : statesmen in general think that every common idea must be a low one ; and, since the morals of private people stand in need of being curbed and maintained by the laws, we ought not to wonder if these sovereigns conform to their independence.

The time may nevertheless arrive when, fatigued with that ambition that agitates them, and of the continued rotation of the same anxieties and the same plans,

they may turn their views to the great principles of humanity; and, if the present generation is to be witness of this happy revolution, they may at least be allowed to be unanimous in offering up their vows for the perfection of the social virtues, and for the progress of public beneficial institutions. These are the enlarged sentiments of that great man.” 1

Our southern people can here observe the views that Washington entertained on the subject of slavery and the slave-trade, and of the power that government would have over them; for he speaks of the time when there might be a congress of nations to relieve themselves of the anxieties that pressed upon them, and that they would turn their attention " to the great principles of humanity.” It is evident that Washington looked upon slavery and its kindred vices with repugnance, and the only difficulty with him was how to get rid of them. He does not seem to entertain the idea of individual action in the case as a sufficient remedy: he wanted legislative action. He does not appear to entertain any fears as to the result, so far as safety to the community was involved, but only the great difference that would exist in the price of labor ; and so long as that difference was maintained, and the morals of the community needed restraint, different governments would think they ought to retain the slave. Yet he hoped the time might come when they, by general consent, would turn their attention to the

great principles of humanity," instead, as he

· Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 276.

« AnteriorContinuar »