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“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 2
“What is an aristocratic government 2 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.” "
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. he says, –
“Far, far other is the genius of this system; I have already had the honor of mentioning its general nature, 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 countries,” &c.
* Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 307.
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 2 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
We will simply add, let it be remarked that the preamble to the Constitution was declared not to be an “unmeaning flourish,” but that it was, in a “practical manner, the principle of this Constitution.”
He closes the arguments he had used for the adoption of the Constitution with the following words:
“Permit me to offer one consideration more that ought to induce our acceptance of this system. I feel myself lost in contemplation of its magnitude. By adopting this system we shall probably lay a foundation for erecting temples of liberty in every part of the earth. It has been thought by many, that on the success of the struggle America has made for freedom will depend the exertions of the brave and enlightened of other nations. . The advantages resulting from this system will not be confined to the United States; it will draw from Europe many worthy characters who pant for the enjoyment of freedom. It will induce princes, in order to preserve their subjects, to restore them a portion of that liberty of which they have for so many ages been deprived. It will be subservient to the great designs of Providence with regard to this globe, the multiplication of mankind, their improvement in knowledge, and their advancement in happiness.” "
May we not here appeal to the South, if they yet lay any claim to virtue or honor, or if the institution of slavery has not already blinded their eyes and stopped their ears, to reflect on the horrid, the abominable idea of perpetuating a system
which every good man, even among themselves, deplores, and pronounces injurious to their own, as well as the welfare of the slave, – and not to perpetuate to future generations such a system, and cause the whole design of making this land the land of freedom to be given up, that the withering curse of slavery may be fastened upon it We ask them, in all candor, in all kindness, to prevent such an occurrence, and in their national dignity help proclaim to the world America is yet determined to be free, not only in word, but in deed also; and that they will no longer belie (for we must view their present position such) the principles of our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of our country, and the object for which it was formed. - Mr. McKean, after stating, among other things, that the convention had been three weeks in hearing objections, went into an enumeration of them; among others we find the following:
“That migration or importation of such persons as any of the States shall, admit, shall not be prohibited prior to 1808, nor a tax or duty imposed on such importation exceeding ten dollars for each person.”"
“That it was a consolidation of the States, and not a confederacy. That it is an aristocracy, and was intended to be so by the framers of it.”
After briefly answering these objections, and saying with regard to the introduction of slaves, “Provision is made that congress shall have power to prohibit the importation of slaves after the year 1808,” he says, –
* Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 312.
“But the gentlemen in opposition accuse this system of a crime, because it was not prohibited by them at once. I suspect these gentlemen are not acquainted . with the business of the diplomatic body, or they would know that an argument might be made that did not perfectly accord with the will or pleasure of any one person. Instead of finding fault with what has been gained, I am happy to see a disposition in the United States to do so much.”
He closes his remarks with these words:
“Upon the whole, sir, the law has been my study from my infancy, and my only profession. I have gone through the circle of office, in the legislature, executive, and judicial departments of government, and, from all my study, observation, and experience, I must declare that, from a full examination and due consideration of the system, it appears to be the best the world has yet seen.
“I congratulate you upon the fair prospect of its being adopted, and I am happy in the expectation of seeing accomplished what has been long my ardent wish, that you will hereafter have a salutary permanency in majestracy and stability in the laws.” ”
These ideas might have been realized at this time, so far as we can judge, were it not for slavery. It is to this alone we can attribute the mobs, the lynchings, and the use of the bowie knife. These have been so generally made use of at the South, we are led to inquire where, south of
* Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 318. * Idem, vol. iii. p. 322.