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We trust the stone has been rolled away from the door of the sepulchre, never more to close it ; and man, disenthralled from the worse than death that has bound him to the car of a lordly master, will be able to walk forth in newness of life, rendering service to him only to whom service may be due. As these proceedings were the first that took place after the adoption of the Constitution, we have concluded to copy them, that it may be seen what were the ideas advanced at that day, and also as they show distinctly that it was avowed and acknowledged by Mr. Madison that congress did have power over the subject of slavery. Whether, as a member of the original convention, he was willing to give congress power over the subject; or whether he was convinced, by the arguments urged by Mr. Henry in the convention of Virginia, that the power, by implication, was certainly given; or whether he found, in the necessary action of congress, it must be so; or, after the adoption of the amendments he could not but perceive such was thé fact, — we will not determine. In the language he uses on the subject, in the quotations that follow, it will be perceived he is very decided ; and that, in his opinion, congress has undoubted power over the subject, though the delegates from South Carolina and Georgia attempted to advance the idea that congress had not. Not only Mr. Madison, but Mr. Gerry and others, maintained the contrary, and went so far as to tell the Southern members their speeches had no arguments in them. It seemed a self-evident proposition with Mr. Gerry, that congress had power over the subject. Mr. Boudinot thought congress had done wrong in not exacting the ten dollars' duty on the importation of slaves, as it would encourage persons to put their capital in this unrestricted trade, in preference to those articles on which duty was paid. As no answer is reported to have been made to Mr. Madison's, Mr. Gerry's, or Mr. Boudinot's arguments, it is fair to conclude they were not answered; and the memorial was not acted upon, not because it was not constitutional to have carried out the ideas contained in it, but on account of the “begging” and “entreating ” of the southern members, and their representing the dangers to which they imagined they might be exposed, the people of the North gave way. Mr. Gerry went into a calculation of what the slaves might then be worth; and the value he put upon them was ten millions of dollars; and he thought, though he said he would make no proposition of the kind, that congress might take the western lands for the purpose of paying for their liberty. While such a course might, at the present day, be adopted, and perhaps many in our land would gladly do it, provided the disgrace which slavery is bringing upon it could be blotted out, and the slave could be at once relieved from his chains; and because the North itself has more or less participated in the traffic, and has been the seller of the stolen property, and has received the wages of its iniquity, and therefore, in justice, if it now cause the purchaser to give it up, it should help bear the loss, if any there should be ; – while, we say, there is this class of persons, there are others who deny that any remuneration should be given any one for acting honestly, and doing that which is just and equal; and who say the slaveholder has already received more than his just remuneration ; and, as the slave has so long worked for him, it is no more than right the master should pay the debt by working for the slave in turn. There are others, again, who say there is no real property in slaves at all; that the planter would be richer without than with them; that only as they are bought and sold, and capable of being transferred, or are let out for hire, are they of any pecuniary value ; that the man is more willing to work without shackles than with them; that he is more ready to exert his inventive genius, and is really of more value, as a freeman than as a slave. Not, however, on the principle lately promulgated, – because more can be wrung out of the freeman by any peculiar oppression exercised towards the employed by the employer, — but because the man feels he is a freeman, and that what he does is, at least in a measure, his own choice; or that, by exerting his best powers, it may enable him to raise himself from penury and from want; whereas the slave has no such stimulus, and consequently neglects to do what he might with convenience. Having the doors for promotion now shut against him, he has no object before him, and therefore will not work more than he can help; consequently, all that would be given the master would be a gratuity; and, from this cause alone, the master should receive no compensation. And, further, slaveholding is a sin, both against God and man, and should at once be repented of and relinquished; and a man should no more be guilty of it than he would be guilty of theft, robbery, or murder.
But, if we are correct in the position we have assumed in this work, it matters not what may be the views now held on the subject of remuneration, as our fathers have settled it in the Constitution, by giving to every man an opportunity to obtain his freedom by civil process, and without compensation, his freedom being his inalienable right.
But to return to our quotations:
“Mr. Tucker said he considered the memorial to be so glaring an interference with the Constitution, that he had hoped the house would not have given so much countenance to a request so improper in itself. He was sorry the society had discovered so little prudence in their memorial as to wish that congress would intermeddle in the internal regulations of the particular States. He hoped the petition would not be committed, as it would operate directly against the interest of those it was designed to benefit. This is a business that would be attended with the most serious consequences: it may end in the subversion of the government, being a direct attack on the rights and property of the Southern States. He then inquired what satisfaction was to be made to the proprietors of slaves. He believed it was not in the power of the States to make indemnification for the loss that would attend emancipation. He reprobated the interposition of the society, and denied they possessed any more humanity than other denominations.” “Mr. Gerry replied to Mr. Tucker, and desired the gentleman to point out any part of the memorial which proposed the legislature should infringe on the Constitution. For his part, he had heard nothing read that had such a tendency. Its only object was, that congress would exert their constitutional authority to abate the horrors of slavery, so far as they could. He hoped the petition would be committed.” “Mr. Burke reprobated the commitment as subversive of the Constitution, as sounding an alarm, and blowing the trumpet of sedition in the Southern States. He should oppose the business totally, and, if chosen on the committee, he should decline serving.” “Mr. Scott was in favor of its commitment.” “Mr. Jackson was opposed to it, and painted in strong colors the alarming consequences to be apprehended from taking up the business, – revolt, insurrection, and devastation, — and concluded by an observation similar to Mr. Burke’s.” - - “Mr. Sherman could see no difficulty in committing the memorial: the committee may bring in such a report as may prove satisfactory on all sides.” “Mr. Baldwin referred to the principles of accommodation, which prevailed at the time of forming the government. Those mutual concessions that then took place gave us a constitution which was to secure the peace and the equal rights and properties of the several States; and, to prevent all infractions of rights in this particular instance, they precluded themselves, by an express stipulation, from all interposition in the slave-trade. Congress are not called upon to declare their sentiments upon this occasion; they cannot constitutionally interfere in the business. He deprecated the consequence of such a