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THE SLAVE-TRADE IN THE CONVENTION. 45 a Constitution as they would have | by the delegates from those States. preferred, Slavery would have found North Carolina was passive; Virno lodgment in it; but already the ginia and her more northern sisters whip of Disunion was brandished, more than willing to prohibit at once and the fatal necessity of Compro- the further importation of Slaves; mise made manifest. The Convention in fact, several, if not all, of these would have at once and forever pro- States, including Virginia and Maryhibited, so far as our country and her land, had already expressly forbidpeople were concerned, the African den it. But the ultimatum presented Slave-Trade; but South Carolina and by the still slave-hungry States of Georgia were present, by their dele- the extreme South was imperative, gates, to admonish, and, if admoni- | and the necessity of submitting to it tion did not answer, to menace, that was quite too easily conceded. Roger this must not be. “No Slave- Sherman, of Connecticut, was among Trade, no Union !” Such was the the first to adınit it. The conscience short and sharp alternative presented of the North was quieted 4 by em
3 In the debate of the same day, "General subject to be committed, including the clause Pinckney declared it to be his firm conviction, relating to taxes on exports, and the navigation that, if himself and all his colleagues were to sign | act. These things may form a bargain among the Constitution, and use their personal influ-| the Northern and Southern States. ence, it would be of no avail toward obtaining I "Mr. BUTLER [of South Carolina] declared that the consent of their constituents. South Car- he would never agree to the power of taxing olina and Georgia can not do without slaves. ** exports. He contended that the importation of slaves “Mr. SHERMAN said it was better to let the would be for the interest of the whole Union. Southern States import slaves than to part with The more slaves, the more products to employ them, if they made that a sine quâ non." the carrying trade; the more consumption also; 1 On the question for committing the remain
d the more of this, the more revenue for the ing part of Sections 4 and 5, of Article VII., the common treasury. He admitted it to be reason vote was 7 in the affirmative; 3 in the negative; able, that slaves should be dutied, like other im Massachusetts absent.Ibid., p. 1392. ports, but should consider a rejection of the clause as an exclusion of South Carolina from the Union.
4 An instance of this quieting influence, as “Mr. BALDWIN has similar conceptions in the exerted by The Federalist, a series of letters, case of Georgia.
urging upon the Northern people the adoption "Mr. WILSON (of Pennsylvania) observed, that, of the new Constitution, as framed and presentif South Carolina and Georgia were thus dis
ed to their several legislatures for ratification posed to get rid of the importation of slaves in a short time, as had been suggested, they would
by the Federal Convention, may be shown in never refuse to unite, because the importation | the following: might be prohibited. As the section now "It were, doubtless, to be wished that the stands, all articles imported are to be taxed. power of prohibiting the importation of slaves Slaves alonė are exempt. This is, in fact, a l had not been postponed until the year 1808; bounty on that article.
or rather, that it had been suffered to have im"Mr. DICKINSON [of Delaware] expressed his mediate operation. But it is not difficult to sentiments as of a similar character. And account either for this restriction on the GenerMessrs. KING and LANGDON [of New Hampshire | al Government, or for the manner in which the were also in favor of giving the power to the whole clause is expressed. It ought to be conGeneral Government.
sidered as a great point gained in favor of human« General PINCKNEY thought himself bound | ity, that a period of twenty years may terminato to declare candidly, that he did not think South | forever, within these States, a traffic which has Carolina would stop her importations of slaves in so long and so loudly upbraided the barbarism any short time; but only stop them occasionally, of modern policy; that within that period it will as she now does. He moved to commit the receive a considerable discouragement from tho clause, that slaves might be made liable to an Federal Government, and may be totally abolequal tax with other imports; which he thought ished by the concurrence of the few States right, and which would remove one difficulty which continue the unnatural traffic, in the prothat had been started.
hibitory example which is given by so large a “Mr. RUTLEDGE seconded the motion of Gen- majority of the Union. Happy would it be for eral Pinckney.
the unfortunate Africans if an equal prospect "Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS wished the whole ( lay before them of being redeemed from the is now some sixty years dead; but the breed Great Britain as a large and lucrative branch of
Prohin. The nga ora
bodying in the Constitution a pro- should they be represented any more viso that Congress might interdict than ships, or houses, or cattle? the foreign Slave-Trade after the Here is a nabob, who values his favorexpiration of twenty years-a term ite high-bred horse at five thousand which, it was generally agreed, dollars, and five of his able-bodied ought fully to satisfy the craving of negroes at the same amount. Why Carolina and Georgia. The modi- should his five negroes count as three fied proposition to prohibit the Slave- men in apportioning the repreTrade now encountering no opposi- sentatives in Congress among the tion, the recognition of slaves, as a several States, while the blooded basis of political power, presented a horse counts just nothing at all? We grave and intricate problem. It was can only answer that Slavery and one calculated, at least, to place the Reason travel different roads, and antagonistic parties respectively in that he strives in vain who labors to false positions. If slaves are human make those roads even seem parallel. beings, why should they not be repre The Convention, without much desented like other human beings— bate or demur, split the difference, that is, like women and children, and by deciding that the basis alike of other persons, ignorant, humble, and Representation in Congress, and of powerless, like themselves? If, on the Direct Taxation, should be the entire other hand, you consider them prop- free population of each State, with erty-mere chattels personal, why " three-fifths of all other persons.” 6 oppression of their European brethren.”—The prohibits the African Slave-Trade utterly to our Federalist, vol. i., p. 276.
own country as well as to foreign lands. True, 6 The Encyclopædia Britannica (latest edition this act did not take effect till the 1st of Janu-Art., Slavery) states that the African Slave- | ary ensuing, because of the constitutional in Trade was abolished by Great Britain, after | bition aforesaid; but we submit that this does years of ineffectual struggle under the lead of not invalidate our claim for our country and her Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, Wilberforce, Revolutionary Statesmen of the honor of having etc., on the 25th of March, 1807; and most in- pioneered thus far the advance of Justice and accurately and unjustly adds:
Humanity, to the overthrow of a giant iniquity. "The great measure of the British legislature The Encyclopædiu aforesaid, in noting the fact was imitated, in the first instance, by the that the African Slave-Trade was abolished by United States."
Great Britain under the brief Whig ministry of To say nothing of acts prohibiting the impor
Fox and Grenville, after such abolition had been tation of slaves by several of our States, Vir
| boldly urged for twenty years under the all but ginia and Maryland inclusive, prior to the fram
dictatorial Tory rule of Pitt, who was professeding of our Federal Constitution, and the provi
ly its friend, forcibly and truly adds : sions incorporated in that instrument looking to
"The proud son of Chatham loved truth and a complete suppression of the Slave-Trade after
justice not a little, but he loved power and place twenty years, our Congress, on the 22d day of greatly more; and he was resolved that Negro March. 1794. passed an act forbidding and pun- | Emancipation should not lose him either a shred ishing any participation by our citizens in the
of political influence or a beam of (royal] favor.” Slave-Trade to foreign countries, which had long
The particular individual of whom this is said been very zealously pursued and protected by
was not extinct, in either hemisphere, at the da her foreign commerce and navigation. In 1800,
of our latest advices. our Congress passed a further act, to the same 6" We subscribe to the doctrine, might one of effect, but more sweeping in its provisions and
our Southern brethren observe, that Representa
tion relates more immediately to persons, and severe in its penalties. On the 2d of March,
Taxation more immediately to property; and we 1807--twenty-three days before the passage of join in the application of this distinction to the the British actCongress passed one which case of our slaves. But we deny the fact, that slaves are considered merely as property, and in their true character. It is the character beno respect whatever as persons. The true state stowed on them by the laws under which they of the case is, that they partake of both these live; and it will not be disputed that these are qualities, being considered by our laws in some the proper criterion, because it is only under the respects as persons, and in other respects as pretext that the laws have transformed negroes propertyIn being compelled to labor, not into subjects of property, that a place is denied merely for himself, but for a master-in being to them in the computation of numbers; and it vendible by one master to another master, and is admitted that, if the laws were to restore the being subject, at all times, to being restrained rights which have been taken away, the negroes in his liberty and chastised in his body by the would no longer be refused an equal share of reprecapricious will of his owner, the slave may ap- sentation with the other inhabitants. The Federpear to be degraded from the human rank, and ) alist, vol. ii., p. 46. classed with that of the irrational animals, which fall under the legal denomination of prop
At length, when the Constitution was among the necessities or grievwas nearly completed, Slavery, ances which had impelled the asthrough its attorney, Mr. Butler, of sembling of this Convention. But South Carolina, presented its little the insertion of a slave-catching Bill for extras. Like Oliver Twist, it clause in the Constitution would unwanted some more.' Its new de- doubtedly be regarded with favor by mand was that slaves escaping from the slaveholding interest, and would one State into another, might be fol- strongly tend to render the new lowed and legally reclaimed. This re-frame-work of government more acquirement, be it observed, was en- ceptable to the extreme South. So, tirely outside of any general and after one or two unsuccessful atobvious necessity. No one could tempts, Mr. Butler finally gave to pretend that there was any thing his proposition a shape in which it mutual in the obligation it sought to proved acceptable to a majority; and impose—that Massachusetts or New it was adopted, with slight apparent Hampshire was either anxious to resistance or consideration." secure the privilege of reclaiming her In these latter days, since the fugitive slaves who might escape into radical injustice and iniquity of slaveCarolina or Georgia, or had any de- holding have been more profoundly sire to enter into reciprocal engage- realized and generally appreciated, ments to this end. Nor could any many subtle and some able attempts one gravely insist that the provision have been made to explain away this for the mutual rendition of slaves most unfortunate provision, for the was essential to the completeness of reason that the Convention wisely the Federal pact. The old Confed- and decorously excluded the terms eration had known nothing like it; Slave and Slavery from the Constituyet no one asserted that the want of tion; “because," as Mr. Madison an inter-State Fugitive Slave law says, “they did not choose to admit
l ' In Convention, Wednesday, August 29, erty. In being protected, on the other hand, in his life and in his limbs, against the violence
1787. of all others, even the master of his labor and "Mr. Butler moved to insert, after Article XV., his liberty, and in being punished himself for 'if any person bound to service or labor in any all violence committed against others, the slave of the United States shall escape into another is no less regarded by the law as a member of State, he or she shall not be discharged from society, not as a part of the irrational creation such service or labor in consequence of any as a moral person, not a mere object of prop regulations existing in the State to which they erty. The Federal Constitution, therefore, l escape, but shall be delivered up to the person decides, with great propriety, on the case of our justly claiming their service or labor --which, slaves, when it views them in the mixed char- after some verbal modification, was agreed to, acter of persons and property. This is, in fact, nem. con." -Madison's Papers, vol. iii., p. 145, 6.
the right of property in man.” It / slaveholders : « This provision is has been argued that this provision contrary to equity and good condoes not contemplate the rendition science; hence we can not obey it. of fugitives from Slavery, but rather To seize our fellow-man and thrust of runaway apprentices, persons who, him into an abhorred bondage may having entered into contracts for in your eyes be innocent, in ours it their own labor, have repudiated would be crime. If, then, you are their engagements, and other such aggrieved in any case, by our refusal Jonahs. The records and reminis- or neglect to return your fugitives, cences of the Convention, however, make out your bill for their fair marutterly refute and dissipate these vain ket value and call upon us for its and idle pretenses. It is sheer ab- payment. If we refuse it, you will surdity to contend that South Caro- then have a real grievance to allege lina in the Convention was absorb --this, namely: that we have deingly intent on engrafting upon the prived you of what the Constitution Federal Constitution a provision for recognizes as your property, and have the recapture of runaway appren- failed to make recompense therefor. tices, or any thing of the sort. What But you surely can not blame us, that, she meant was, to extort from the having been enlightened as to the imapprehensions of a majority, anxious moral nature of acts consented to, or for a more perfect Union, a conces- stipulated for, by our fathers, we are sion of authority to hunt fugitive unable longer to commit them. Take slaves in any part of our broad our property, if you think yourselves national area, and legally to drag entitled to it; but allow us to be them thence back into perpetual faithful to our convictions of duty bondage. If the Convention did not and the promptings of humanity." mean to grant exactly that, it trifled General Charles C. Pinckney, in with a very grave subject, and stoop- laying the Federal Constitution beed to an unworthy deception. How fore the Convention of South Caromuch better to meet the issue broadly lina, which assembled January 15, and manfully, saying frankly to the 1788, to pass upon it, made a speech,
8 In the debate of Tuesday, July 29, 1788,/ Governor Seward, in his speech of March 11, in the North Carolina ratification convention, | 1850, on Freedom in the Territories, forcibly which was organized at Hillsborough, July 21, set forth the true and manly Northern ground 1788:
on this subject, as follows : .66 Mr. Iredell begged leave to explain the "The law of nations disavows such comreason of this clause (last clause, Section 2, pacts; the law of nature, written on the hearts Article IV.). In some of the Northern States, and consciences of freemen, repudiates them. they have emancipated all their slaves. If any | I know that there are laws, of various sorts, of our slaves, said he, go there and remain there which regulate the conduct of men. There are a certain time, they would, by the present laws, constitutions and statutes, codes mercantile and be entitled to their freodom, so that their mas- | codes civil; but when we are legislating for ters could not get them again. This would be States, especially when we are founding States, extremely prejudicial to the inhabitants of the all these laws must be brought to the standard Southern States; and to prevent it, this clause of the law of God, must be tried by that standis inserted in the Constitution. Though the ard, and must stand or fall by it. To conclude word slave is not mentioned, this is the meaning on this point: We are not slaveholders. We of it. The Northern delegates, owing to their can not, in our judgment, be either true Chrispeculiar scruples on the subject of Slavery, tians or real freemen, if we impose on another did not choose the word slave to be men- 1 a chain that we defy all human power to fasten tioned."-Elliot's Debates, vol. iv., p. 176. on ourselves."-Seward's Works, vol. 1., p. 66.
in which he dwelt with reasonable and among the considerations which sejustifiable complacency on the advan- cured its ratification, by that body, by tages secured to Slavery by the Consti- a vote of 149 to 73. Other Southern tution ;10 and these, doubtless, were States may have been thus affected.
SLAVERY UNDER THE CONSTITUTION
It has been plausibly argued that voice was raised in dissent from this the constitutional provision for the action. On the other hand, the next surrender of fugitive slaves, and the Congress proceeded to enact, with inhibition of Slavery in the Territo- very little opposition, a stringent and ries simultaneously embodied in the comprehensive fugitive slave law.! Ordinance of 1787, were parts of an North Carolina, on the 22d of Deimplied, rather than clearly expressed, cember, 1789-one month after raticompact, whereby Slavery in the old fying the Federal ConstitutionStates was to be protected, upheld, passed an act ceding, on certain conand guaranteed, on condition that it ditions, her western territory-now should rest content within its existing constituting the State of Tennessee boundaries. In seeming accordance to the Federal Union. She exacted with this hypothesis, the first Federal and required Congress to assent to Congress, which met at New York this, among other conditions: on the Irst Wednesday in March, "Provided always, that no regulation 1789, proceeded forthwith to adopt made, or to be made, by Congress, shall tend and reënact the prohibition of Slavery |
to emancipate slaves.” in the Territories, already contained Georgia, likewise, in ceding to the in the Ordinance of '87 aforesaid, Union (April 2, 1802) her outlying and to adapt that Ordinance in all re- territories, now forming the States spects to the new state of things cre- of Alabama and Mississippi, imposed ated by the Federal Constitution. No upon the Union, and required Con
10 The following is an extract from General States was appointed in order to accommodate Chas. C. Pinckney's speech, delivered in the this matter; and, after a great deal of difficulty,
it was settled, on the footing of the Constitution. South Carolina ratification convention, January
By this settlement, we have secured an unlimit-. 17, 1788:
ed importation of negroes for twenty years.. "I am of the same opinion now as I was
| Nor is it declared when that importation shallo two years ago that, while there remained one
be stopped; it may be continued. We have a acre of swamp land uncleared in South Carolina,
right to recover our slaves in whatever part of I would raise my voice against restricting the
America they may take refuge. In short, conimportation of negroes. * * * * The Middle
sidering all circumstances, we have made the States and Virginia were for an immediate and
best terms for the security of this species of total prohibition. We endeavored to obviate
property it was in our power to make. We the objections which were urged in the best would have made better if we could ; but, on the manner we could, and assigned reasons for our whole, I do not thinks them bad."-Elliot's Debates,, insisting on the importation, which there is no
vol. iv., p. 285. occasion to repeat, as they must occur to every gentleman in the House: a committee of the For this act, see Brightley's Digest, p. 294.