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leads us to infer, to that of oppressing their fellowmen;
and it is with these views he seems to have entered upon his office as president of the United States. Whether he ever exerted himself to bring about such a state as he here suggested, we are unable to say.
Mr. Wilson, it will be observed, assured the convention of Pennsylvania that congress would have full power to extirpate slavery throughout the country; and that it was a very great argument with him in favor of its adoption, and he did it because some persons in the convention were ready to reject it on the ground that they supposed congress might introduce slavery into the State in opposition to its laws, which they did not wish to have done, and they were assured it could not be done.
From the foregoing observations of Mr. Wilson, we find that the State of Pennsylvania came into the Union with the express understanding that congress might, and probably would, abolish slavery throughout the United States, and that it was expected it would soon be done ; and Mr. Wilson introduced Washington's observations to satisfy the convention that he was in favor of such a course.
In pursuing the discussion he burst out in this exclamation,
“Happy America! thy crisis was indeed alarming, but thy situation was not desperate. We had confidence in our country, though, on which ever side we turned, we were presented with scenes of distress. Though the jarring interests of the various States, and the different
habits and inclination of their inhabitants, all lay in the way, and rendered our prospect gloomy and discouraging indeed, yet such were the generous and mutual sacrifices offered up, that, amidst forty-two members, who represented twelve of the United States, there were only three who did not attest the instrument as a confirmation of its goodness; happy Pennsylvania! this plan has been laid before thy citizens for consideration; they have sent delegates to express their view; and listen, with rapture listen!! from only three has opposition been heard against it."
On the same page he says,
“We were told, some days ago, by the honorable gentleman from Westmoreland, [Mr. Finley,] when speaking of this system and its objects, that the convention no doubt thought they were forming a compact, or contract, of the greatest importance. Sir, I confess I was much surprised, at so late a state of the debate, to hear such principles maintained. It was matter of surprise to hear the great leading principles of this system were still so very much misunderstood. • The convention no doubt thought they were forming a contract!' I cannot answer for what every member thought; but I believe it cannot be said that they thought they were making a contract, because I cannot discern the least trace of a compact in that system. There can be no compact unless there are more parties than one. It is a new doc. trine that one can make a compact with himself. "The convention were forming compacts !' with whom? I know of no bargains that were made then. I am unable to conceive who the parties could be. The State governments make a bargain with one another; that is the
Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 286.
doctrine that is endeavored to be established by gentlemen in opposition ; their State sovereignties wish to be represented ! But far other were the ideas of the convention, and far other were those conveyed in the system itself.
“ As this subject has been often mentioned, and as often misunderstood, it may be proper to take some farther notice of it. This, Mr. President, is not a government founded on compact ; it is founded on the power
of the people. They express in their name and authority, • We the people do ordain and establish,' &c. from their ratification alone it is to take its constitutional authority; without that, it is no more than a tabula rusa.”
Such, then, were Mr. Wilson's opinions respecting this famous compact, and so much of it did Pennsylvania know about it, when she gave her assent to our present Constitution !
“ I have already shown that this system is not a compact, or contract; the system itself tells you what it is; it is an ordinance and an establishment of the people. I think the force of the introduction to the work must, by this time, have been felt. It is not an unmeaning flourish. The expressions declare, in a practical manner, the principles of this Constitution. It is ordained and established by the people themselves, and we who give our votes for it are merely the proxies of our constituents. We sign it as their attorneys, and, as to ourselves, we agree to it as individuals.” 1
Speaking of the kind of government meant to be established by the convention upon its being asserted that an aristocracy was meant to be formed, he says,
* Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 288.
“ The late convention was assembled to devise some plan for the security, safety, and the happiness of the people of the United States; if they have devised a plan that robs them of their power, and constitutes an aristocracy, they are the parricides of their country, and ought to be punished as such. What part of the system is it that warrants the charge ?
“ What is an aristocratic government? I had the honor of giving a definition of it at the beginning of our debates : it is, sir, the government of the few over the many,
elected by themselves, or possessing a share in the government by inheritance, or in consequence of territorial rights, or some quality independent of the choice of the people, this is an aristocracy; and this Constitution is said to be an aristocratical form of government; and it is also said that it is intended so to be by the members themselves of the late convention who framed it.” 1
After asking " what peculiar rights have been reserved to any class of men, on any occasion ;" or whether even the “chief magistrate of the United States enjoyed any privilege that was not extended to every individual of the country ;" whether the offices were not open to "all,” whether "poor or rich ;” whether there was any "distinction " between the inhabitants of the "city" or "country;" whether the places of honor or emolument were confined to the few, or to the members of the late convention, &c. &c.
“Far, far other is the genius of this system; I have already had the honor of mentioning its general nature,
| Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 307.
but I will repeat it, sir ; in its principles it is purely democratical, but its parts are calculated in such a manner as to obtain those advantages, also, which are peculiar to the other forms of governments in other coun. tries,” &c.
But if the system of slavery was to be guaranteed to any portion of the land, would there not have been an aristocracy of the most hateful kind ? would not the many be subjected to the few ? But, as Mr. Wilson declares, such was not the intention of the convention : it must have been presumed by the people of Pennsylvania this was not to be the case, and that no one was to have a share in the government by inheritance. When, then, we find, as is now the case, one class of persons has the sole control of the government deposited in their hands, and another doomed to abject bondage, deprived of all participation not only in civil government, but even the government of themselves, we ask, with all candor, can any thing be a greater perversion of the intent and meaning, as Mr. Wilson construed the Constitution, than is expressed in the idea that slavery is guaranteed to the South? or, as Mr. Duncan of Ohio has lately expressed it, that the maintenance of slavery was the principal cause for the adoption of the Constitution ? and he, too, a professed republican! It must be answered, such could not have been intended; and one cannot help exclaiming, on reading such language from such sources, O, the inconsistency of man ! how good, how bad, how wise, how foolish!