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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 command. “‘ 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 2 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. “‘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.” " 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
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 z 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 doctrine that one can make a compact with himself. “The convention were forming compacts 1' 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 l 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.”"
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.