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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
· Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 312.
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 intend. ed 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
1 Elliot's Reports, vol. iii. p. 312.
to prohibit the importation of slaves after the year 1808,” 1 he says, –
“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
“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.” 2
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.
the Potomac, has the majesty of the laws been at all maintained, if the question of slavery has been in the most remote degree involved ? There is no law for the slave, or him who desirès his freedom: both are beyond the protection of law; and, so far as they are concerned, the majesty of the country is but a broken reed ; and, if a man should attempt to lean on it, he would be pierced through as with a dart. The universal expression is, there is no trust to them; and yet this is called a land of liberty and of laws. In such a state of things can any thing be more untrue ? it is neither one nor the other. The slave is restrained because it is. said he is born a slave; the white man, because he must not question such violation of every thing that is just and true, honorable, or of good report. And, consequently, we find in all the arguments brought forward to sustain the system — if arguments there are any - a most confused mixture of truth and falsehood, and such an attempt to blend liberty and slavery, that perfect nonsense, or the blending the meaning of words, is the only result; or else we come off like the platter in Mother Goose's Melodies, wiped perfectly clean:
“ Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean ;.
They wiped the platter clean." It is thus with the rights of both the white and colored man: the South will not endure the slave should possess any, and the people at the North cannot endure the white man should open his lips
to assert he has any; and so, forsooth, for the mess of pottage which it is supposed can be wrung out of the hard earnings of the slave, this whole land, this whole continent, must be delivered over into the hands of despotism ; and that beautiful and satisfactory idea, that men, as a body, can govern themselves, and by the light of reason, which as a lamp is placed within the breast of every one, guided by the Spirit of God, is enough to show them in their path, and direct them in the way they should go, must give place to the horrible one that man requires a keeper; that by his Creator a large portion, at least, are made incapable of taking care of themselves, and, in consequeno , there must be lords, there must be masters. Are the people of America ready to sanction this doctrine? Are they ready, after passing through the severe struggle they have, now to lay down their arms and submit unresistingly to the chains that are ready to be forged for their limbs? Do they mean to give up the contest, and recline in inglorious ease, and let the man be swallowed up in the brute ? If so, let slavery be continued ; let our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence be blotted from the records of the nation ; let us proclaim to the world we are a debased people; that all we have heretofore said upon the subject of liberty was but a "rhetorical flourish,” unmeaning sounds, and spoken only to deceive; that we all had ulterior views. It was not the good of man we sought; it was not for him we contended; but, rather, that our own selfishness might be