« AnteriorContinuar »
at the time he delivered this opinion, have been aware of its bearing on the case of a slave? We can hardly conceive it possible it should be otherwise; and yet it may be: we have no proof he had, or that his thoughts were otherwise occupied than with the case before him. But the doctrines are broad and comprehensive, and yet simple. It is but saying a legislature, at least one of the legislatures, of this Union, may legislate for the good and welfare of the individuals of the State; but they cannot pass laws, either of an immoral character, and professedly to the injury of any of its citizens, or make a man a judge in his own cause ; —and what is a slaveholder but a judge in his own cause 2 These, he says, are altogether contrary to the genius of our government. Can we ask any thing more ?
WE have now ended our quotations to prove the doctrine we have advanced, – that the Constitution does not nor cannot guarantee slavery; and, so far as public documents show — and these are the ones on which alone we should rely to elucidate the subject—we cannot but come to the conclusion they all prove there could have been no compact, there was no general understanding, it should be continued; but, on the contrary, from all the authority we can glean from the history of the times, the whole system was, for the most part, execrated as a foul blot on the history of man; that it was the main design of our fathers, in coming to this country, to establish a community where impartial laws should be administered, where every person should enjoy his individual rights unmolested by others; that, after many hardships and trials, and many attempts made to overcome their love of freedom, they did succeed in overthrowing a foreign attempt to enslave them, and then established, as they thought and intended, a government in a great measure agreeably to their wishes, when they thought, if every one did not then, they soon would, enjoy
that liberty for which they had so long panted, and left upon record an instrument, though defective in some points, yet, if its doctrines should be carried out, would produce the revolution so much desired; that it is only by departing from these instructions we find ourselves embarrassed by such conflicting interest; and that a return to those few fundamental principles of right and good government will alone make us a happy and prosperous people; that it was wicked men, who from the first attempted to establish this system against the remonstrances of the good; and that, by their persevering endeavors, joined, perhaps, with the honest fear of some, they came near preventing a union of the States; and, if not now checked in their mad career, they will make this land a land of darkness and of the shadow of death, a land where no goodness dwells, where crime, bloodshed, and all iniquity may prevail, where the brute takes possession of the man, and a state of society as much worse than that which existed before its present inhabitants took possession of the soil as can be well conceived, and which is fitting and preparing for it an early destruction, instead of making it, as it might be made, a paradise on earth, where the bounties of Providence are so luxuriantly produced, that we have but to sow, and the seed puts forth her fruit.
Is it, then, too late to bring back the thoughts from their erratic wanderings 2 to do away the attempt to make lords and masters, and, per consequence, to degrade a portion of our fellow-men
to the level with the brute, or make him subservient only to pamper our lusts and passions We trust that it is not so; we trust there is yet virtue enough in the land to save it from a degradation so low and so contrary to the aspirations of those who have preceded us. Is it too late to appeal to the right reason of our southern friends, and urge them to stop, and either let the general government take the matter in hand, and do, as we think we have proved they have the power of doing, whatever they may think best in extirpating the system, it being an evil of so great magnitude, or else let the courts decide, and say that every individual who whips or maltreats another, be that other called either bond or free, is liable to be prosecuted for an assault and battery, and, if any one restrains another against his consent, his freedom may be obtained by a writ of habeas corpus 2 For we think we have proved the propositions we proposed, to wit: 1. That, whatever may have been the inducement which caused the Constitution of this country to be formed, – whether it was, as Mr. Ames stated in a speech delivered in the congress of 1789, that it had “been often justly remarked, that the Constitution under which we deliberate originated in commercial necessity,” or whatever else may have been the cause with some, – the people determined that their individual rights should not be invaded, and that no constitution should be formed that put the liberty of the individual in danger. In fact, they took for granted the principles of the Declaration of Independence ; but the necessities of the country were such, both with regard to its internal and external wants, it was thought necessary to form a more perfect union, the better to secure the rights and liberties of each and all. In order to effect these objects, it was found necessary for the States to surrender, in the last resort, the liberty of the individual to the care of the general government, that, when the States could not or would not protect him, then the general government, with its ample abilities and powers, could step in and do it; and that, while this general government was empowered to secure the general welfare, it was prevented, not only in the body of the Constitution, but more particularly in the amendments, from interfering with certain rights; believing, as we suppose they must have believed, it would never be for the general welfare that the particular rights enumerated, with others not so, should be encroached upon; and, whatever compromises there may have been on other subjects, no compromise was made involving the liberty of the individual. 2. That the subject of slavery was fully commented upon, and the Constitution was formed with the full understanding of its nature, and the people of that day did not and would not, in any shape, give their sanction to the system; but, owing to the strong opposition made by South Carolina and Georgia, and by their earnest solicitations, congress consented that, for twenty years, they would not put a stop to the introduction of any one whom