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entirely coincide, as well as to confirm the hopes of its numerous friends.” The amendments proposed by this congress, as it will be perceived, were adopted by the States, and now constitute a portion of the Constitution. We will therefore ask, if Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia adopted them, after all that had been said upon the subject of slavery, and after the attempt to incorporate it on the Constitution by the amendments proposed by them had so signally failed, can it be that slavery is guaranteed, or even acknowledged 2 Or is it not rather here made evident it is destroyed, if the Constitution should be carried into effect, and that it is not even in the power of congress to establish it? and, if it is not in the power of congress to do it, can it be possible that a State, or the individuals of a State, can do it, without violating those inalienable rights, and that liberty for which the preamble to the Constitution was adopted to secure, as it expressly says to maintain these was the object for which the whole instrument was formed, and which its several articles go to confirm 2 Can a neighbor of mine have a greater command over my liberty than the acknowledged government of the country 2 The idea, it seems to us, is preposterous; and we cannot perceive, in any of the foregoing proceedings, the government of the country have deputized such power to any one, or have given the liberty of any class of its citizens in charge to any other, or that they even have the power of doing it; but, on the contrary, they are bound to preserve to each individual his liberty so far as in their power.
January 8th, 1796, Gen. Washington, in his inaugural address delivered before congress, among other things, observes, –
“Nor am I less persuaded you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing that can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge, in every country, is the surest basis of public happiness.” “Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aid to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a mational university, or by any other expedients, will be well worthy a place in the deliberations of the legislature.”
If the legislature could build seminaries for the general benefit, could they not break up slavery for the general benefit 2 is there any difference in principle 2 we see none. In fact, if “knowledge is the surest basis of public happiness,” and as it is universally acknowledged that the slave must be kept in a state of ignorance in order to keep him as a slave, we cannot but perceive that, if the government of the United States is to preserve the “public happiness,” its first duty would be to see that the slave is instructed, if the States will not do it.
Hon. James Dana, judge of the District Court of the district of New York, in his first charge to the first grand inquest convened for that district, Feb. 5th, 1790, while speaking of the operation of the new Constitution, observed, “Happy that we may confidently trust it will answer the inestimable purpose expressed in its preamble, – “That it will form a more perfect
union,’” &c. quoting the whole preamble to the jury, as if he thought that was the principle on which the government was to be administered. In an address, delivered to Gen. Washington by the judges of the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania, April 20, 1789, they make use of this expression: . t
“And we hope and pray the same Providence will carry us through the great work (which seems reserved for you) of establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquillity, promoting the general welfare, and securing liberty and independence to the good people of your native country to their latest posterity.”
In Washington's answer, he observes, –
“He should feel himself singularly happy in contributing to the glorious work.”
Samuel Adams, in his address to the legislature of Massachusetts, on his induction into the office of lieutenant-governor of the State of Massachusetts, made use of this expression:
“If it be not improper on this occasion, may I beg leave to express a devout and fervent wish that gracious Heaven may quiet the public councils of the great confederate republic which compose it; so that the people may be highly respected and prosperous in their affairs abroad, and enjoy at home that tranquillity of mind which results from a well-grounded confidence that their personal and domestic rights are secure.”
The foregoing extracts, we think, prove very clearly our fourth proposition, namely, that the people, by the adoption of these amendments in the
form they did, caused the liberty of every individual to be secure; or, in the words of the proposition, “the determination of the people no constitution should be formed that put the liberty of the individual in danger.” This is the most important; the other two propositions of importance are, in fact, involved in this one; for, if this is true, the others must be. But we will proceed yet further.
THE PROCEEDINGS OF CONGRESS ON THE PRESENTATION OF THE PETITION BY THE SOCIETY OF QUAKERS FOR THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY.
THE following observations were made in congress on the proposition to commit the memorial transmitted to the house of representatives, 1790, by the society of Quakers, on the subject of slavery. It is astonishing to find how analogous are the assertions made in those days to those made use of at the present time. While assertions are now made with prodigality, and attempts used to ward off discussion, one cannot but be reminded of the old adage, “The least said the soonest mended,” practised by our most intelligent Southerners on this question of slavery; ay, even by those at the North who do not have any great desire to disturb this system. In this discussion, observe the address of Mr. Madison in wishing it given to a committee, not to be reported on, but that it might sleep; and how often has the subject, since that day, taken the same course, and the “tomb of the Capulets '' been a safe resting-place for all such memorials till within a short time, when it would seem they had risen from their grave, and, by their resurrection, are enlightening the world !