Part 45 out of 52
abolition. I should deeply lament it, if it were true."
[Footnote 11: Henry Clay's speech in the United States Senate in 1839,
and confirmed at Raleigh, N.C. 1844.]
The other party nominates a man who says, "I have no hesitation in
declaring that I am in favor of the immediate re-annexation of Texas
to the territory and government of the United States."
Thus both the political parties, and the candidates of both, vie with
each other, in offering allegiance to the slave power, as a condition
precedent to any hope of success in the struggle for the executive
chair; a seat that, for more than three-fourths of the existence of
our constitutional government, has been occupied by a slaveholder.
The same stern despotism overshadows even the sanctuaries of justice.
Of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, five
are slaveholders and of course, must be faithless to their own
interest, as well as recreant to the power that gives them place, or
must, so far as _they_ are concerned, give both to law and
constitution such a construction as shall justify the language of John
Quincy Adams, when he says--"The legislative, executive, and judicial
authorities, are all in their hands--for the preservation,
propagation, and perpetuation of the black code of slavery. Every law
of the legislature becomes a link in the chain of the slave; every
executive act a rivet to his hapless fate; every judicial decision a
perversion of the human intellect to the justification of wrong."
Thus by merely adverting but briefly to the theory and the practical
effect of this clause of the Constitution, that I have sworn to
support, it is seen that it throws the political power of the nation
into the hands of the slaveholders; a body of men, which, however it
may be regarded by the Constitution as "persons," is in fact and
practical effect, a vast moneyed corporation, bound together by an
indissoluble unity of interest, by a common sense of a common danger;
counselling at all times for its common protection; wielding the whole
power, and controlling the destiny of the nation.
If we look into the legislative halls, slavery is seen in the chair of
the presiding officer of each, and controlling the action of both.
Slavery occupies, by prescriptive right, the Presidential chair. The
paramount voice that comes from the temple of national justice, issues
from the lips of slavery. The army is in the hands of slavery, and at
her bidding, must encamp in the everglades of Florida, or march from
the Missouri to the borders of Mexico, to look after her interests in
The navy, even that part that is cruising off the coast of Africa, to
suppress the foreign slave trade, is in the hands of slavery.
Freemen of the North, who have even dared to lift up their voice
against slavery, cannot travel through the slave States, but at the
peril of their lives.
The representatives of freemen are forbidden, on the floor on
Congress, to remonstrate against the encroachments of slavery, or to
pray that she would let her poor victims go.
I renounce my allegiance to a Constitution that enthrones such a
power, wielded for the purpose of depriving me of my rights, of
robbing my countrymen of their liberties, and of securing its own
protection, support and perpetuation.
Passing by that clause of the Constitution, which restricted Congress
for twenty years, from passing any law against the African slave
trade, and which gave authority to raise a revenue on the stolen sons
of Africa, I come to that part of the fourth article, which guarantees
protection against "_domestic violence_," and which pledges to the
South the military force of the country, to protect the masters
against their insurgent slaves: binds us, and our children, to shoot
down our fellow-countrymen, who may rise, in emulation of our
revolutionary fathers, to vindicate their inalienable "right to life,
_liberty_ and the pursuit of happiness,"--this clause of the
Constitution, I say distinctly, I never will support.
That part of the Constitution which provides for the surrender of
fugitive slaves, I never have supported and never will. I will join in
no slave-hunt. My door shall stand open, as it has long stood, for the
panting and trembling victim of the slave-hunter. When I shut it
against him, may God shut the door of her mercy against me! Under this
clause of the Constitution, and designed to carry it into effect,
slavery has demanded that laws should be passed, and of such a
character, as have left the free citizen of the North without
protection for his own liberty. The question, whether a man seized in
a free State as a slave, _is_ a slave or not, the law of Congress does
not allow a jury to determine: but refers it to the decision of a
Judge of a United State' Court, or even of the humblest State
magistrate, it may be, upon the testimony or affidavit of the party
most deeply interested to support the claim. By virtue of this law,
freemen have been seized and dragged into perpetual slavery--and
should I be seized by a slave-hunter in any part of the country where
I am not personally known, neither the Constitution nor laws of the
United States would shield me from the same destiny.
These, sir, are the specific parts of the Constitution of the united
States, which in my opinion are essentially vicious, hostile at once
to the liberty and to the morals of the nation. And these are the
principal reasons of my refusal any longer to acknowledge my
allegiance to it, and of my determination to revoke my oath to support
it. I cannot, in order to keep the law of man, break the law of God,
or solemnly call him to witness my promise that I will break it.
It is true that the Constitution provides for its own amendment, and
that by this process, all the guarantees of Slavery may be expunged.
But it will be time enough to swear to support it when this is done.
It cannot be right to do so, until these amendments are made.
It is also true that the framers of the Constitution did studiously
keep the words "Slave" and "Slavery" from its face. But to do our
constitutional fathers justice, while they forebore--from very
shame--to give the word "Slavery" a place in the Constitution, they
did not forbear--again to do them justice--to give place in it to the
_thing_. They were careful to wrap up the idea, and the substance of
Slavery, in the clause for the surrender of the fugitive, though they
sacrificed justice in doing so.
There is abundant evidence that this clause touching "persons held to
service or labor," not only operates practically, under the judicial
construction, for the protection of the slave interest; but that it
was _intended_ so to operate by the framers of the Constitution. The
highest judicial authorities--Chief Justice Shaw, of the Supreme Court
of Massachusetts, in the Latimer case, and Mr. Justice Story, in the
Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of _Prigg vs. The
State of Pennsylvania_,--tell us, I know not on what evidence, that
without this "compromise," this security for Southern slaveholders,
"the Union could not have been formed." And there is still higher
evidence, not only that the framers of the Constitution meant by this
clause to protect slavery, but that they did this, knowing that
slavery was wrong. Mr. Madison informs us that the clause in
question, as it came out of the hands of Dr. Johnson, the chairman of
the "committee on style," read thus: "No person legally held to
service, or labor, in one State, escaping into another, shall," &c.,
and the word "legally" was struck out, and the words "under the laws
thereof" inserted after the word "State," in compliance with the wish
of some, who thought the term _legal_ equivocal, and favoring the idea
that slavery was legal "_in a moral view_." A conclusive proof that,
although future generations might apply that clause to other kinds of
"service or labor," when slavery should have died out, or been killed
off by the young spirit of liberty, which was _then_ awake and at work
in the land; still, slavery was what they were wrapping up in
"equivocal" words: and wrapping it up for its protection and safe
keeping: a conclusive proof that the framers of the Constitution were
more careful to protect themselves in the judgement of coming
generations, from the charge of ignorance, than of sin; a conclusive
proof that they knew that slavery was not "legal in a moral view,"
that it was a violation of the moral law of God; and yet knowing and
confessing its immorality, they dared to make this stipulation for its
support and defence.
[Footnote 12: Madison Papers, p. 1589.]
This language may sound harsh to the ears of those who think it a part
of their duty, as citizens, to maintain that whatever the patriots of
the revolution did, was right; and who hold that we are bound to _do_
all the iniquity that they covenanted for us that we _should_ do. But
the claims of truth and right are paramount to all other claims.
With all our veneration for our constitutional fathers, we must
admit,--for they have left on record their own confession of
it,--that in this part of their work they _intended_ to hold the
shield of their protection over a wrong, knowing that it was a wrong.
They made a "compromise" which they had no right to make--a compromise
of moral principle for the sake of what they probably regarded as
"political expediency." I am sure they did not know--no man could
know, or can now measure, the extent, or the consequences of the wrong
that they were doing. In the strong language of John Quincy Adams,
in relation to the article fixing the basis of representation, "Little
did the members of the Convention, from the free States, imagine or
foresee what a sacrifice to Moloch was hidden under the mask of this
[Footnote 13: See his Report on the Massachusetts Resolutions.]
I verily believe that, giving all due consideration to the benefits
conferred upon this nation by the Constitution, its national unity,
its swelling masses of wealth, its power, and the external prosperity
of its multiplying millions; yet the _moral_ injury that has been
done, by the countenance shown to slavery by holding over that
tremendous sin the shield of the Constitution, and thus breaking down
in the eyes of the nation the barrier between right and wrong; by so
tenderly cherishing slavery as, in less than the life of man, to
multiply her children from half a million to nearly three millions; by
exacting oaths from those who occupy prominent stations in society,
that they will violate at once the rights of man and the law of God;
by substituting itself as a rule of right, in place of the moral laws
of the universe;--thus in effect, dethroning the Almighty in the
hearts of this people and setting up another sovereign in his
stead--more than outweighs it all. A melancholy and monitory lesson
this, to all time-serving and temporising statesmen! A striking
illustration of the _impolicy_ of sacrificing _right_ to any
considerations of expediency! Yet, what better than the evil effects
that we have seen, could the authors of the Constitution have
reasonably expected, from the sacrifice of right, in the concessions
they made to slavery? Was it reasonable in them to expect that after
they had introduced a vicious element into the very Constitution of
the body politic which they were calling into life, it would not exert
its vicious energies? Was it reasonable in them to expect that, after
slavery had been corrupting the public morals for a whole generation,
their children would have too much virtue to _use_ for the defence of
slavery, a power which they themselves had not too much virtue to
_give_? It is dangerous for the sovereign power of a State to license
immorality; to hold the shield of its protection over any thing that
is not "legal in a moral view." Bring into your house a benumbed
viper, and lay it down upon your warm hearth, and soon it will not ask
you into which room it may crawl. Let Slavery once lean upon the
supporting arm, and bask in the fostering smile of the State, and you
will soon see, as we now see, both her minions and her victims
multiply apace till the politics, the morals, the liberties, even the
religion of the nation, are brought completely under her control.
To me, it appears that the virus of slavery, introduced into the
Constitution of our body politic, by a few slight punctures, has now
so pervaded and poisoned the whole system of our National Government,
that literally there is no health in it. The only remedy that I can
see for the disease, is to be found in the _dissolution of the
The Constitution of the United States, both in theory and practice, is
so utterly broken down by the influence and effects of slavery, so
imbecile for the highest good of the nation, and so powerful for evil,
that I can give no voluntary assistance in holding it up any longer.
Henceforth it is dead to me, and I to it. I withdraw all profession of
allegiance to it, and all my voluntary efforts to sustain it. The
burdens that it lays upon me, while it is held up by others, I shall
endeavor to bear patiently, yet acting with reference to a higher law,
and distinctly declaring, that while I retain my own liberty, I will
be a part to no compact, which helps to rob any other man of his.
Very respectfully, your friend,
* * * * *
MR. WEBSTER'S SPEECH
AT NIBLO'S GARDENS.
"We have slavery, already, amongst us. The Constitution found it among
us; it recognized it and gave it SOLEMN GUARANTIES. To the full extent
of these guaranties we are all bound, in honor, in justice, and by the
Constitution. All the stipulations, contained in the Constitution, _in
favor of the slaveholding States_ which are already in the Union,
ought to be fulfilled, and so far as depends on me, shall be
fulfilled, in the fulness of their spirit, and to the exactness of
* * * * *
JOHN Q. ADAMS'S ADDRESS
AT NORTH BRIDGEWATER, NOV. 6, 1844.
The benefits of the Constitution of the United States, were the
restoration of credit and reputation, to the country--the revival of
commerce, navigation, and ship-building--the acquisition of the means
of discharging the debts of the Revolution, and the protection and
encouragement of the infant and drooping manufactures of the country.
All this, however, as is now well ascertained, was insufficient to
propitiate the rulers of the Southern States to the adoption of the
Constitution. What they specially wanted was _protection_.--Protection
from the powerful and savage tribes of Indians within their
borders, and who were harrassing them with the most terrible of
wars--and protection from their own negroes--protection from their
insurrections--protection from their escape--protection even to the
trade by which they were brought into the country--protection, shall I
not blush to say, protection to the very bondage by which they were
held. Yes! it cannot be denied--the slaveholding lords of the South
prescribed, as a condition of their assent to the Constitution, three
special provisions to secure the perpetuity of their dominion over
their slaves. The first was the immunity for twenty years of
preserving the African slave-trade; the second was the stipulation to
surrender fugitive slaves--an engagement positively prohibited by the
laws of God, delivered from Sinai; and thirdly, the exaction fatal to
the principles of popular representation, of a representation for
slaves--for articles of merchandise, under the name of persons.
The reluctance with which the freemen of the North submitted to the
dictation of these conditions, is attested by the awkward and
ambiguous language in which they are expressed. The word slave is
most cautiously and fastidiously excluded from the whole instrument. A
stranger, who should come from a foreign land, and read the
Constitution of the United States, would not believe that slavery or a
slave existed within the borders of our country. There is not word in
the Constitution _apparently_ bearing up on the condition of slavery,
nor is there a provision but would be susceptible of practical
execution if there were not a slave in the land.
The delegates from South Carolina and Georgia distinctly avowed that,
without this guarantee of protection to their property in slaves, they
would not yield their assent to the Constitution; and the freemen of
the North, reduced to the alternative of departing from the vital
principle of their liberty, or of forfeiting the Union itself, averted
their faces, and with trembling hand subscribed the bond.
Twenty years passed away--the slave markets of the South were
saturated with the blood of African bondage, and from midnight of the
31st December, 1807, not a slave from Africa was suffered ever more to
be introduced upon our soil. But the internal traffic was still
lawful, and the _breeding_ States soon reconciled themselves to a
prohibition which gave them the monopoly of the interdicted trade, and
they joined the full chorus of reprobation, to punish with death the
slave-trader from Africa, while they cherished and shielded and
enjoyed the precious profits of the American slave-trade exclusively
Perhaps this unhappy result of their concession had not altogether
escaped the foresight of the freemen of the North; but their intense
anxiety for the preservation of the whole Union, and the habit already
formed of yielding to the somewhat peremptory and overbearing tone
which the relation of master and slave welds into the nature of the
lord, prevailed with them to overlook this consideration, the internal
slave-trade having scarcely existed while that with Africa had been
allowed. But of one consequence which has followed from the slave
representation, pervading the whole organic structure of the
Constitution, they certainly were not prescient; for if they had been,
never--no, never would they have consented to it.
The representation, ostensibly of slaves, under the name of persons,
was in its operation an exclusive grant of power to one class of
proprietors, owners of one species of property, to the detriment of
all the rest of the community. This species of property was odious in
its nature, held in direct violation of the natural and inalienable
rights of man, and of the vital principles of Christianity; it was all
accumulated in one geographical section of the country, and was all
held by wealthy men, comparatively small in numbers, not amounting to
a tenth part of the free white population of the States in which it
In some of the ancient, and in some modern republics, extraordinary
political power and privileges have been invested in the owners of
horses; but then these privileges and these powers have been granted
for the equivalent of extraordinary duties and services to the
community, required of the favored class. The Roman knights
constituted the cavalry of their armies, and the bushels of rings
gathered by Hannibal from their dead bodies, after the battle of
Cannae, amply prove that the special powers conferred upon them were
no gratuitous grants. But in the Constitution of the United States,
the political power invested in the owners of slaves is entirely
gratuitous. No extraordinary service is required of them; they are, on
the contrary, themselves grievous burdens upon the community, always
threatened with the danger of insurrections, to be smothered in the
blood of both parties, master and slave, and always depressing the
condition of the poor free laborer, by competition with the labor of
the slave. The property in horses was the gift of God to man, at the
creation of the world; the property in slaves is property acquired and
held by crimes, differing in no moral aspect from the pillage of a
freebooter, and to which no lapse of time can give a prescriptive
right. You are told that this is no concern of yours, and that the
question of freedom and slavery is exclusively reserved to the
consideration of the separate States. But if it be so, as to the mere
question of right between master and slave, it is of tremendous
concern to you that this little cluster of slave-owners should
possess, besides their own share in the representative hall of the
nation, the exclusive privilege of appointing two-fifths of the whole
number of the representatives of the people. This is now your
condition, under that delusive ambiguity of language and of principle,
which begins by declaring the representation in the popular branch of
the legislature a representation of persons, and then provides that
one class of persons shall have neither part nor lot in the choice of
their representative; but their elective franchise shall he
transferred to their masters, and the oppressors shall represent the
oppressed. The same perversion of the representative principle
pollutes the composition of the colleges of electors of President and
Vice President of the United States, and every department of the
government of the Union is thus tainted at its source by the gangrene
Fellow-citizens,--with a body of men thus composed, for legislators
and executors of the laws, what will, what must be, what has been your
legislation? The numbers of freemen constituting your nation are much
greater than those of the slaveholding States, bond and free. You have
at least three-fifths of the whole population of the Union. Your
influence on the legislation and the administration of the government
ought to be in the proportion of three to two.--But how stands the
fact? Besides the legitimate portion of influence exercised by the
slaveholding States by the measure of their numbers, here is an
intrusive influence in every department, by a representation nominally
of persons, but really of property, ostensibly of slaves, but
effectively of their masters, overbalancing your superiority of
numbers, adding two-fifths of supplementary power to the two-fifths
fairly secured to them by the compact, CONTROLLING AND OVERRULING THE
WHOLE ACTION OF YOUR GOVERNMENT AT HOME AND ABROAD, and warping it to
the sordid private interest and oppressive policy of 300,000 owners of
From the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the United
States, the institution of domestic slavery has been becoming more and
more the abhorrence of the civilized world. But in proportion as it
has been growing odious to all the rest of mankind, it has been
sinking deeper and deeper into the affections of the holders of
slaves themselves. The cultivation of cotton and of sugar, unknown in
the Union at the establishment of the Constitution, has added largely
to the pecuniary value of the slave. And the suppression of the
African slave-trade as piracy upon pain of death, by securing the
benefit of a monopoly to the virtuous slaveholders of the ancient
dominion, has turned her heroic tyrannicides into a community of
slave-breeders for sale, and converted the land of George Washington,
Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and Thomas Jefferson, into a great
barracoon--a cattle-show of human beings, an emporium, of which the
staple articles of merchandise are the flesh and blood, the bones and
sinews of immortal man.
Of the increasing abomination of slavery in the unbought hearts of men
at the time when the Constitution of the United States was formed,
what clearer proof could be desired, than that the very same year in
which that charter of the land was issued, the Congress of the
Confederation, with not a tithe of the powers given by the people to
the Congress of the new compact, actually abolished slavery for ever
throughout the whole Northwestern territory, without a remonstrance or
a murmur. But in the articles of confederation, there was no guaranty
for the property of the slaveholder--no double representation of him
in the Federal councils--no power of taxation--no stipulation for the
recovery of fugitive slaves. But when the powers of _government_ came
to be delegated to the Union, the--that is, South Carolina and
Georgia--refused their subscription to the parchment, till it should
be saturated with the infection of slavery, which no fumigation could
purify, no quarantine could extinguish. The freemen of the North gave
way, and the deadly venom of slavery was infused into the Constitution
of freedom. Its first consequence has been to invert the first
principle of Democracy, that the will of the majority of numbers shall
rule the land. By means of the double representation, the minority
command the whole, and a KNOT OF SLAVEHOLDERS GIVE THE LAW AND
PRESCRIBE THE POLICY OF THE COUNTRY. To acquire this superiority of a
large majority of freemen, a persevering system of engrossing nearly
all the seats of power and place, is constantly for a long series of
years pursued, and you have seen, in a period of fifty-six years, the
Chief-magistracy of the Union held, during forty-four of them, by the
owners of slaves. The Executive departments, the Army and Navy, the
Supreme Judicial Court and diplomatic missions abroad, all present the
same spectacle;--an immense majority of power in the hands of a very
small minority of the people--millions made for a fraction of a few
* * * * *
From that day (1830,) SLAVERY, SLAVEHOLDING, SLAVE-BREEDING AND
SLAVE-TRADING, HAVE FORMED THE WHOLE FOUNDATION OF THE POLICY OF THE
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, and of the slaveholding States, at home and
abroad; and at the very time when a new census has exhibited a large
increase upon the superior numbers of the free States, it has
presented the portentous evidence of increased influence and
ascendancy of the slaveholding power.
Of the prevalence of that power, you have had continual and conclusive
evidence in the suppression for the space of ten years of the right of
petition, guarantied, if there could be a guarantee against slavery,
by the first article amendatory of the Constitution.
* * * * *
THE ANTI-SLAVERY EXAMINER.--NO. XI
A PRO-SLAVERY COMPACT
THE MADISON PAPERS, &C.
SECOND EDITION, ENLARGED.
* * * * *
AMERICAN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY,
142 NASSAU STREET.
Debates in the Congress of the Confederation.
Debates in the Federal Convention.
List of Members of the Federal Convention.
Speech of Luther Martin.
DEBATES IN STATE CONVENTIONS.
Extracts from the Federalist,
Debates in First Congress,
Address of the Executive Committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society,
Letter from Francis Jackson to Gov. Briggs,
Extract from Mr. Webster's Speech,
Extracts from J.Q. Adams's Address, November, 1844.
* * * * *
Every one knows that the "Madison Papers" contain a Report, from the
pen of James Madison, of the Debates in the Old Congress of the
Confederation and in the Convention which formed the Constitution of
the United States. We have extracted from them, in these pages, all
the Debates on those clauses of the Constitution which relate to
slavery. To these we have added all that is found, on the same topic,
in the Debates of the several State Conventions which ratified the
Constitution: together with so much of the Speech of Luther Martin
before the Legislature of Maryland, and of the Federalist, as relate
to our subject; with some extracts, also, from the Debates of the
first Federal Congress on Slavery. These are all printed without
alteration, except that, in some instances, we have inserted in
brackets, after the name of a speaker, the name of the State from
which he came. The notes and italics are those of the original, but
the editor has added two notes on page 38, which are marked as his,
and we have taken the liberty of printing in capitals one sentiment of
Rufus King's, and two of James Madison's--a distinction which the
importance of the statements seemed to demand--otherwise we have
reprinted exactly from the originals.
These extracts develop most clearly all the details of that
"compromise," which was made between freedom and slavery, in 1787;
granting to the slaveholder distinct privileges and protection for his
slave property, in return for certain commercial concessions on his
part toward the North. They prove also that the Nation at large were
fully aware of this bargain at the time, and entered into it willingly
and with open eyes.
We have added the late "Address of the American Anti-Slavery Society,"
and the Letter of FRANCIS JACKSON to Governor BRIGGS, resigning his
commission of Justice of the Peace--as bold and honorable protests
against the guilt and infamy of this National bargain, and as proving
most clearly the duty of each individual to trample it under his feet.
The clauses of the Constitution to which we refer as of a pro-slavery
character are the following :--
ART. 1, SECT. 2.--Representatives and direct taxes shall be
apportioned among the several States, which may be included within
this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be
determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including
those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not
taxed, _three-fifths of all other persons_.
ART. 1, SECT. 8.--Congress shall have power . . . to suppress
ART. 1, SECT. 9.--The migration or importation of such persons as any
of the States now existing, shall think proper to admit, shall not be
prohibited by the Congress, prior to the year one thousand eight
hundred and eight: but a tax or duty may be imposed on such
importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.
ART. 4, SECT. 2.--No person, held to service or labor in one State,
under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence
of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or
labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such
service or labor may be due.
ART. 4, SECT. 4.--The United States shall guarantee to every State in
this Union a republican form of government; and shall protect each of
them against invasion; and, on application of the legislature, or of
the executive, (when the legislature cannot be convened) _against
The first of these clauses, relating to representation, confers on a
slaveholding community additional political power for every slave held
among them, and thus tempts them to continue to uphold the system: the
second and the last, relating to insurrection and domestic violence,
perfectly innocent in themselves--yet being made with the fact
directly in view that slavery exists among us, do deliberately pledge
the whole national force against the unhappy slave if he imitate our
fathers and resist oppression--thus making us partners in the guilt of
sustaining slavery: the third, relating to the slave-trade, disgraces
the nation by a pledge not to abolish that traffic till after twenty
years, _without obliging Congress to do so even then_, and thus the
slave-trade may be legalized to-morrow if Congress choose: the fourth
is a promise on the part of the whole Nation to return fugitive slaves
to their masters, a deed which God's law expressly condemns and which
every noble feeling of our nature repudiates with loathing and
These are the articles of the "Compromise," so much talked of, between
the North and South.
We do not produce the extracts which make up these pages to show what
is the meaning of the clauses above cited. For no man or party, of any
authority in such matters, has ever pretended to doubt to what subject
they all relate. If indeed they were ambiguous in their terms, a
resort to the history of those times would set the matter at rest
forever. A few persons, to be sure, of late years, to serve the
purposes of a party, have tried to prove that the Constitution makes
no compromise with slavery. Notwithstanding the clear light of
history;--the unanimous decision of all the courts in the land, both
State and Federal;--the action of Congress and the State
Legislature;--the constant practice of the Executive in all its
branches;--and the deliberate acquiescence of the whole people for
half a century, still they contend that the Nation does not know its
own meaning, and that the Constitution does not tolerate slavery!
Every candid mind, however, must acknowledge that the language of the
Constitution is clear and explicit.
Its terms are so broad, it is said, that they include many others
beside slaves, and hence it is wisely (!) inferred that they cannot
include the slaves themselves! Many persons besides slaves in this
country doubtless are "held to service and labor under the laws of the
States," but that does not at all show that slaves are not "held to
service;" many persons beside the slaves may take part "in
insurrections," but that does not prove that when the slaves rise, the
National Government is not bound to put them down by force. Such a
thing has been heard of before as one description including a great
variety of persons,--and this is the case in the present instance.
But granting that the terms of the Constitution are ambiguous--that
they are susceptible of two meanings, if the unanimous, concurrent,
unbroken practice of every department of the Government, judicial,
legislative, and executive, and the acquiescence of the whole people
for fifty years do not prove which is the true construction, then how
and where can such a question ever be settled? If the people and the
Courts of the land do not know what they themselves mean, who has
authority to settle their meaning for them?
If then the people and the Courts of a country are to be allowed to
determine what their own laws mean, it follows that at this time and
for the last half century, the Constitution of the United States has
been, and still is, a pro-slavery instrument, and that any one who
swears to support it, swears to do pro-slavery acts, and violates his
duty both as a man and an abolitionist. What the Constitution may
become a century hence, we know not; we speak of it _as it is_, and
repudiate it _as it is_.
But the purpose, for which we have thrown these pages before the
community, is this. Some men, finding the nation unanimously deciding
that the Constitution tolerates slavery, have tried to prove that this
false construction, as they think it, has been foisted into the
instrument by the corrupting influence of slavery itself, tainting all
it touches. They assert that the known anti-slavery spirit of
revolutionary times never _could_ have consented to so infamous a
bargain as the Constitution is represented to be, and has in its
present hands become. Now these pages prove the melancholy fact, that
willingly, with deliberate purpose, our fathers bartered honesty for
gain, and became partners with tyrants, that they might share in the
profits of their tyranny.
And in view of this fact, will it not require a very strong argument
to make any candid man believe, that the bargain which the fathers
tell us they meant to incorporate into the Constitution, and which the
sons have always thought they found there incorporated, does not exist
there, after all? Forty of the shrewdest men and lawyers in the land
assemble to make a bargain, among other things, about slaves,--after
months of anxious deliberation they put it into writing and sign their
names to the instrument,--fifty years roll away, twenty millions, at
least, of their children pass over the stage of life,--courts sit and
pass judgment,--parties arise and struggle fiercely; still all concur
in finding in the instrument just that meaning which the fathers tell
us they intended to express:--must not he be a desperate man, who,
after all this, sets out to prove that the fathers were bunglers and
the sons fools, and that slavery is not referred to at all?
Besides, the advocates of this new theory of the Anti-slavery
character of the Constitution, quote some portions of the Madison
Papers in support of their views,--and this makes it proper that the
community should hear _all_ that these Debates have to say on the
subject. The further we explore them, the clearer becomes the fact,
that the Constitution was meant to be, what it has always been
esteemed, a compromise between slavery and freedom.
If then the Constitution be, what these Debates show that our fathers
intended to make it, and what, too, their descendants, this nation,
say they did make it and agree to uphold,--then we affirm that it is a
"covenant with death and an agreement with hell," and ought to be
immediately annulled. No abolitionist can consistently take office
under it, or swear to support it.
But if, on the contrary, our fathers failed in their purpose, and the
Constitution is all pure and untouched by slavery,--then, Union itself
is impossible, without guilt. For it is undeniable that the fifty
years passed under this (anti-slavery) Constitution, show us the
slaves trebling in numbers;--slaveholders monopolizing the offices and
dictating the policy of the Government;--prostituting the strength and
influence of the Nation to the support of slavery here and
elsewhere;--trampling on the rights of the free States, and making the
courts of the country their tools. To continue this disastrous
alliance longer is madness. The trial of fifty years with the best of
men and the best of Constitutions, on this supposition, only proves
that it is impossible for free and slave States to unite on any terms,
without all becoming partners in the guilt and responsible for the sin
of slavery. We dare not prolong the experiment, and with double
earnestness we repeat our demand upon every honest man to join in the
outcry of the American Anti-Slavery Society,--
NO UNION WITH SLAVEHOLDERS!
A PRO-SLAVERY COMPACT.
* * * * *
_Extracts from Debates in the Congress of Confederation, preserved by
Thomas Jefferson, 1776._
Congress proceeded the same day to consider the Declaration of
Independence, * * *
The clause too reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa was
struck out, in compliance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never
attempted to restrain the importation of Slaves, and who on the
contrary still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also, I
believe, felt a little tender under those censures; for though their
people have very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty
considerable carriers of them to others.--p. 18.
On Friday, the twelfth of July, 1776, the committee appointed to draw
the articles of Confederation reported them, and on the twenty-second,
the House resolved themselves into a committee to take them into
consideration. On the thirtieth and thirty-first of that month, and
the first of the ensuing, those articles were debated which determined
the proportion or quota of money which each State should furnish to
the common treasury, and the manner of voting in Congress. The first
of these articles was expressed in the original draught in these
"Article 11. All charges of war and all other expenses that shall be
incurred for the common defence, or general welfare, and allowed by
the United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common
treasury, which shall be supplied by the several Colonies in
proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex and duality,
except Indians not paying taxes, in each Colony, a true account of
which, distinguishing the white inhabitants, shall be triennially
taken and transmitted to the Assembly of the United States."
Mr. CHASE (of Maryland) moved, that the quotas should be paid, not by
the number of inhabitants of every condition but by that of the "white
inhabitants." He admitted that taxation should be always in proportion
to property; that this was in theory the true rule, but that from a
variety of difficulties it was a rule which could never be adopted in
practice. The value of the property in every State could never be
estimated justly and equally. Some other measure for the wealth of the
State must therefore be devised, some standard referred to which
would be more simple. He considered the number of inhabitants as a
tolerably good criterion of property, and that this might always be
obtained. He therefore thought it the best mode we could adopt, with
one exception only. He observed that negroes are property, and as such
cannot be distinguished from the lands or personalities held in those
States where there are few slaves. That the surplus of profit which a
Northern farmer is able to lay by, he invests in cattle, horses, &c.;
whereas, a Southern farmer lays out that same surplus in slaves. There
is no more reason therefore for taxing the Southern States on the
farmer's head and on his slave's head, than the Northern ones on their
farmers' heads and the heads of their cattle. That the method proposed
would therefore tax the Southern States according to their numbers and
their wealth conjunctly, while the Northern would be taxed on numbers
only: that negroes in fact should not be considered as members of the
State, more than cattle, and that they have no more interest in it.
Mr. John Adams (of Massachusetts) observed, that the numbers of people
were taken by this article as an index of the wealth of the State and
not as subjects of taxation. That as to this matter it was of no
consequence by what name you called your people, whether by that of
freemen or of slaves. That in some countries the laboring poor were
called freemen, in others they were called slaves: but that the
difference as to the state was imaginary only. What matters it whether
a landlord employing ten laborers on his farm gives them annually as
much money as will buy them the necessaries of life, or gives them
those necessaries at short hand? The ten laborers add as much wealth
annually to the State, increase its exports as much, in the one case
as the other. Certainly five hundred freemen produce no more profits,
no greater surplus for the payment of taxes, than five hundred slaves.
Therefore the State in which are the laborers called freemen, should
be taxed no more than that in which are those called slaves. Suppose,
by any extraordinary operation of nature or of law, one half the
laborers of a State could in the course of one night be transformed
into slaves,--would the State be made the poorer, or the less able to
pay taxes? That the condition of the laboring poor in most
countries,--that of the fishermen, particularly, of the Northern
States,--is as abject as that of slaves. It is the number of laborers
which produces the surplus for taxation; and numbers, therefore,
indiscriminately, are the fair index of wealth. That it is the use of
the word "property" here, and its application to some of the people of
the State, which produces the fallacy. How does the Southern farmer
procure slaves? Either by importation or by purchase from his
neighbor. If he imports a slave, he adds one to the number of laborers
in his country, and proportionably to its profits and abilities to pay
taxes; if he buys from his neighbor, it is only a transfer of a
laborer from one farm to another, which does not change the annual
produce of the State, and therefore should not change its tax; that if
a Northern farmer works ten laborers on his farm, he can, it is true,
invest the surplus of ten men's labor in cattle; but so may the
Southern farmer working ten slaves. That a State of one hundred
thousand freemen can maintain no more cattle than one of one hundred
thousand slaves; therefore they have no more of that kind of property.
That a slave may, indeed, from the custom of speech, be more properly
called the wealth of his master, than the free laborer might be called
the wealth of his employer: but as to the State, both were equally its
wealth, and should therefore equally add to the quota of its tax.
Mr. HARRISON (of Virginia) proposed, as a compromise, that two slaves
should be counted as one freeman. He affirmed that slaves did not do
as much work as freemen, and doubted if two effected more than one.
That this was proved by the price of labor, the hire of a laborer in
the Southern colonies being from L8 to L12, while in the Northern it
was generally L24.
Mr. WILSON (of Pennsylvania) said, that if this amendment should take
place, the Southern colonies would have all the benefit of slaves,
whilst the Northern ones would bear the burthen. That slaves increase
the profits of a State, which the Southern States mean to take to
themselves; that they also increase the burthen of defence, which
would of course fall so much the heavier on the Northern; that slaves
occupy the places of freemen and eat their food. Dismiss your slaves,
and freemen will take their places. It is our duty to lay every
discouragement on the importation of slaves; but this amendment would
give the _jus trium liberorum_ to him who would import slaves. That
other kinds of property were pretty equally distributed through all
the Colonies: there were as many cattle, horses, and sheep, in the
North as the South, and South as the North; but not so as to slaves:
that experience has shown that those colonies have been always able to
pay most, which have the most inhabitants, whether they be black or
white; and the practice of the Southern colonies has always been to
make every farmer pay poll taxes upon all his laborers, whether they
be black or white. He acknowledged indeed that freemen worked the
most; but they consume the most also. They do not produce a greater
surplus for taxation. The slave is neither fed nor clothed so
expensively as a freeman. Again, white women are exempted from labor
generally, which negro women are not. In this then the Southern States
have an advantage as the article now stands. It has sometimes been
said that slavery was necessary, because the commodities they raise
would be too dear for market if cultivated by freemen; but now it is
said that the labor of the slave is the dearest.
Mr. PAYNE (of Massachusetts) urged the original resolution of
Congress, to proportion the quotas of the States to the number of
Dr. WITHERSPOON (of New-Jersey) was of opinion, that the value of
lands and houses was the best estimate of the wealth of a nation, and
that it was practicable to obtain such a valuation. This is the true
barometer of wealth. The one now proposed is imperfect in itself, and
unequal between the States. It has been objected that negroes eat the
food of freemen, and therefore should be taxed: horses also eat the
food of freemen; therefore they also should be taxed. It has been said
too, that in carrying slaves into the estimate of the taxes the State
is to pay, we do no more than those States themselves do, who always
take slaves into the estimate of the taxes the individual is to pay.
But the cases are not parallel. In the Southern Colonies, slaves
pervade the whole Colony; but they do not pervade the whole continent.
That as to the original resolution of Congress, it was temporary only,
and related to the moneys heretofore emitted: whereas we are now
entering into a new compact, and therefore stand on original ground.
AUGUST 1st. The question being put, the amendment proposed was
rejected by the votes of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island,
Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey and Pennsylvania, against those of
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North; and South Carolina. Georgia was
divided.--_pp_. 27-8-9, 30-1-2.
* * * * *
_Extracts from Madison's Report of Debates in the Congress of the
TUESDAY, January 14, 1783.
If the valuation of land had not been prescribed by the Federal
Articles, the Committee would certainly have preferred some other rule
of appointment, particularly that of numbers, under certain
qualifications as to slaves.--_p_. 260
TUESDAY, Feb. 11, 1783.
Mr. WOLCOTT declares his opinion that the Confederation ought to be
amended by substituting numbers of inhabitants as the rule; admits the
difference between freemen and blacks; and suggests a compromise, by
including in the numeration such blacks only as were within sixteen
and sixty years of age.--_p_. 331
THURSDAY, March 27, 1783.
(The eleventh and twelfth paragraphs:)
Mr. WILSON (of Pennsylvania) was strenuous in their favor; said he was
in Congress when the Articles of Confederation directing a valuation
of land were agreed to; that it was the effect of the impossibility of
compromising the different ideas of the Eastern and Southern States,
as to the value of slaves compared with the whites, the alternative in
Mr. CLARK (of New-Jersey) was in favor of them. He said that he was
also in Congress when this article was decided; that the Southern
States would have agreed to numbers in preference to the value of land
if half their slaves only should be included; but that the Eastern
States would not concur in that proposition.
It was agreed, on all sides, that, instead of fixing the proportion by
ages, as the report proposed, it would be best to fix the proportion
in absolute numbers. With this view, and that the blank might be
filled up, the clause was recommitted. _p_. 421-2.
FRIDAY, March 28, 1783.
The committee last mentioned, reported that two blacks be rated as one
Mr. WOLCOTT (of Connecticut) was for rating them as four to three. Mr.
CARROLL as four to one. Mr. WILLIAMSON (of North Carolina) said he
was principled against slavery; and that he thought slaves an
incumbrance to society, instead of increasing its ability to pay
taxes. Mr. HIGGINSON (of Massachusetts) as four to three. Mr. RUTLEDGE
(of South Carolina) said, for the sake of the object, he would agree
to rate slaves as two to one, but he sincerely thought three to one
would be a juster proportion. Mr. HOLTON as four to three.--Mr. OSGOOD
said he did not go beyond four to three. On a question for rating them
as three to two, the votes were, New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts,
no; Rhode Island; divided; Connecticut, aye; New Jersey, aye;
Pennsylvania, aye; Delaware, aye; Maryland, no; Virginia, no; North
Carolina, no; South Carolina, no. The paragraph was then postponed, by
general consent, some wishing for further time to deliberate on it;
but it appearing to be the general opinion that no compromise would be
After some further discussions on the Report, in which the necessity
of some simple and practicable rule of apportionment came fully into
view, Mr. MADISON (of Virginia) said that, in order to give a proof of
the sincerity of his professions of liberality, he would propose that
slaves should be rated as five to three. Mr. RUTLEDGE (of South
Carolina) seconded the motion. Mr. WILSON (of Pennsylvania) said he
would sacrifice his opinion on this compromise.
Mr. LEE was against changing the rule, but gave it as his opinion that
two slaves were not equal to one freeman.
On the question for five to three, it passed in the affirmative; New
Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, divided; Rhode Island, no; Connecticut,
no; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, aye; Maryland, aye; Virginia, aye;
North Carolina, aye; South Carolina, aye.
A motion was then made by Mr. BLAND, seconded by Mr. LEE, to strike
out the clause so amended, and, on the question "Shall it stand," it
passed in the negative; New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, no; Rhode
Island, no; Connecticut, no; New Jersey, aye; Pennsylvania, aye;
Delaware, no; Maryland, aye; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye; South
Carolina, no; so the clause was struck out.
The arguments used by those who were for rating slaves high were, that
the expense of feeding and clothing them was as far below that
incident to freemen as their industry and ingenuity were below those
of freemen; and that the warm climate within which the States having
slaves lay, compared with the rigorous climate and inferior fertility
of the others, ought to have great weight in the case; and that the
exports of the former States were greater than of the latter. On the
other side, it was said, that slaves were not put to labor as young as
the children of laboring families; that, having no interest in their
labor, they did as little as possible, and omitted every exertion of
thought requisite to facilitate and expedite it; that if the exports
of the States having slaves exceeded those of the others, their
imports were in proportion, slaves employed wholly in agriculture, not
in manufactures; and that, in fact, the balance of trade formerly was
much more against the Southern States than the others.
On the main question, New Hampshire, aye; Massachusetts, no; Rhode
Island, no; Connecticut, no; New York (Mr. FLOYD, aye;) New Jersey,
aye; Delaware, no; Maryland, aye; Virginia, aye; North Carolina, aye;
South Carolina, no.--_pp. 423-4-5_.
TUESDAY, April l, 1783.
Congress resumed the Report on Revenue, &c. Mr. HAMILTON, who
had been absent when the last question was taken for substituting
numbers in place of the value of land, moved to reconsider that vote.
He was seconded by Mr. OSGOOD. Those who voted differently from
their former votes were influenced by the conviction of the necessity
of the change, and despair on both sides of a more favorable rate
of the slaves. The rate of three-fifths was agreed to without
MONDAY, MAY 26, 1783.
The Resolutions on the Journal instructing the ministers in Europe to
remonstrate against the carrying off the negroes--also those for
furloughing the troops--passed _unanimously.--p. 456._
* * * * *
_Letter from Mr. Madison to Edmund Randolph_.
PHILADELPHIA, April 8, 1783.
A change of the valuation of lands for the number of inhabitants,
deducting two-fifths of the slaves, has received a tacit sanction,
and, unless hereafter expunged, will go forth in the general
recommendation, as material to future harmony and justice among the
members of the Confederacy. The deduction of two-fifths was a
compromise between the wide opinions and demands of the Southern and
other States.--_p. 523_.
* * * * *
_Extract from "Debates in the Federal Convention" of 1787, for the
formation of the Constitution of the United States_.
TUESDAY, May 29, 1787.
Mr. CHARLES PINCKNEY laid before the House the draft of a Federal
Government. * * * "The proportion of direct taxation shall be
regulated by the whole number of inhabitants of every
description"--_pp_. 735, 741.
WEDNESDAY, May 30, 1787.
The following Resolution, being the second of those proposed by Mr.
RANDOLPH, was taken up, viz.
"_That the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be
proportioned to the quotas of contribution, or to the number of free
inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem best in different
Colonel HAMILTON moved to alter the resolution so as to read, "that
the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be
proportioned to the number of free inhabitants." Mr. SPAIGHT seconded
the motion.--_p_. 750.
WEDNESDAY, June 6, 1787.
Mr. MADISON. We have seen the mere distinction of color made, in the
most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive
dominion ever exercised by man over man.--_p_. 806.
MONDAY, June 11, 1787.
Mr. SHERMAN proposed, that the proportion of suffrage in the first
branch should be according to the respective numbers of free
Mr. RUTLEDGE proposed, that the proportion of suffrage in the first
branch should be according to the quotas of contribution.
Mr. KING and Mr. WILSON, in order to bring the question to a point,
moved, "that the right of suffrage in the first branch of the National
Legislature ought not to be according to the rule established in the
Articles of Confederation, but according to some equitable ratio of
It was then moved by Mr. RUTLEDGE, seconded by Mr. BUTLER, to add to
the words, "equitable ratio of representation," at the end of the
motion just agreed to, the words "according to the quotas of
contribution." On motion of Mr. WILSON, seconded by Mr. PINCKNEY, this
was postponed; in order to add, after the words, "equitable ratio of
representation," the words following: "In proportion to the whole
number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age,
sex and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of
years, and three-fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the
foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes, in each
State"--this being the rule in the act of Congress, agreed to by
eleven States, for apportioning quotas of revenue on the States, and
requiring a census only every five, seven, or ten years.
Mr. GERRY (of Massachusetts) thought property not the rule of
representation. Why, then, should the blacks, who were property in the
South, be in the rule of representation more than the cattle and
horses of the North?
On the question,--Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye--9;
New Jersey, Delaware, no--2.--_pp_. 842-3.
TUESDAY, June 19, 1787.
Mr. MADISON. Where slavery exists, the republican theory becomes still
more fallacious.--_p_. 899.
SATURDAY, June 30, 1787.
Mr. Madison,--admitted that every peculiar interest, whether in any
class of citizens, or any description of states, ought to be secured
as far as possible. Wherever there is danger of attack, there ought to
be given a constitutional power of defence. But he contended that the
States were divided into different interests, not by their difference
of size, but by other circumstances; the most material of which
resulted partly from climate, but principally from the effects of
their having or not having slaves. These two causes concurred in
forming the great division of interests in the United States. It did
not lie between the large and small States. IT LAY BETWEEN THE
NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN; and if any defensive power were necessary, it
ought to be mutually given to these two interests. He was so strongly
impressed with this important truth, that he had been casting about in
his mind for some expedient that would answer the purpose. The one
which had occurred was, that, instead of proportioning the votes of
the States in both branches, to the irrespective numbers of
inhabitants, computing the slaves in the ratio of five to three, they
should be represented in one branch according to the number of free
inhabitants only; and in the other according to the whole number,
counting slaves as free. By this arrangement the Southern scale would
have the advantage in one House, and the Northern in the other. He had
been restrained from proposing this expedient by two considerations;
one was his unwillingness to urge any diversity of interests on an
occasion where it is but too apt to arise of itself; the other was the
inequality of powers that must be vested in the two branches, and
which would destroy the equilibrium of interests.--_pp_. 1006-7
MONDAY, July 2, 1787.
Mr. PINCKNEY. There is a real distinction between the Northern and
Southern interests. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, in
their rice and indigo, had a peculiar interest which might be
FRIDAY, July 6, 1787.
Mr. PINCKNEY--thought the blacks ought to stand on an equality with
the whites; but would agree to the ratio settled by Congress.--_p._
MONDAY, July 9, 1787.
Mr. PATTERSON considered the proposed estimate for the future
according to the combined rules of numbers and wealth, as too vague.
For this reason New Jersey was against it. He could regard negro
slaves in no light but as property. They are no free agents, have no
personal liberty, no faculty of acquiring property, but on the
contrary are themselves property, and like other property entirely at
the will of the master. Has a man in Virginia a number of votes in
proportion to the number of his slaves? And if negroes are not
represented in the States to which they belong, why should they be
represented in the General Government. What is the true principle of
representation? It is an expedient by which an assembly of certain
individuals, chosen by the people, is substituted in place of the
inconvenient meeting of the people themselves. If such a meeting of
the people was actually to take place, would the slaves vote? They
would not. Why then should they be represented? He was also against
such an indirect encouragement of the slave trade; observing that
Congress, in their act relating to the change of the eighth article of
Confederation, had been ashamed to use the term "slaves," and had
substituted a description.
Mr. MADISON reminded Mr. PATTERSON that his doctrine of
representation, which was in its principle the genuine one, must for
ever silence the pretensions of the small States to an equality of
votes with the large ones. They ought to vote in the same proportion
in which their citizens would do, if the people of all the States were
collectively met. He suggested, as a proper ground of compromise, that
in the first branch the States should be represented according to
their number of free inhabitants; and in the second, which had for one
of its primary objects the guardianship of property, according to the
whole number, including slaves.
Mr. BUTLER urged warmly the justice and necessity of regarding wealth
in the apportionment of representation.
Mr. KING had always expected, that, as the Southern States are the
richest, they would not league themselves with the Northern, unless
some respect were paid to their superior wealth. If the latter expect
those preferential distinctions in commerce, and other advantages
which they will derive from the connexion, they must not expect to
receive them without allowing some advantages in return. Eleven out of
thirteen of the States had agreed to consider slaves in the
apportionment of taxation; and taxation and representation ought to go
TUESDAY, July 10, 1787.
_In Convention_,--Mr. KING reported, from the Committee yesterday
appointed, "that the States at the first meeting of the General
Legislature, should be represented by sixty-five members, in the
following proportions, to wit:--New Hampshire, by 3; Massachusetts, 8;
Rhode Island, 1; Connecticut, 5; New York, 6; New Jersey, 4;
Pennsylvania, 8; Delaware, 1; Maryland, 6; Virginia, 10; North
Carolina, 5; South Carolina, 5; Georgia, 3."
Mr. KING remarked that the four Eastern States, having 800,000 souls,
have one-third fewer representatives than the four Southern States,
having not more than 700,000 souls, rating the blacks as five for
three. The Eastern people will advert to these circumstances, and be
dissatisfied. He believed them to be very desirous of uniting with
their Southern brethren, but did not think it prudent to rely so far
on that disposition, as to subject them to any gross inequality. He
was fully convinced that THE QUESTION CONCERNING A DIFFERENCE OF
INTERESTS DID NOT LIE WHERE IT HAD HITHERTO BEEN DISCUSSED, BETWEEN
THE GREAT AND SMALL STATES; BUT BETWEEN THE SOUTHERN AND EASTERN. For
this reason be had been ready to yield something, in the proportion of
representatives, for the security of the Southern. No principle would
justify the giving them a majority. They were brought as near an
equality as was possible. He was not averse to giving them a still
greater security, but did not see how it could be done.
General PINCKNEY. The Report before it was committed was more favorable
to the Southern States than as it now stands. If they are to form so
considerable a minority, and the regulation of trade is to be given to
the General Government, they will be nothing more than overseers for
the Northern States. He did not expect the Southern States to be
raised to a majority of representatives; but wished them to have
something like an equality.
Mr. WILLIAMSON. The Southern interest must be extremely endangered by
the present arrangement. The Northern States are to have a majority in
the first instance, and the means of perpetuating it.
General PINCKNEY urged the reduction; dwelt on the superior wealth of
the Southern States, and insisted on its having its due weight in the
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS regretted the turn of the debate. The States, he
found, had many representatives on the floor. Few, he feared, were to
be deemed the representatives of America. He thought the Southern
States have, by the Report, more than their share of Representation.
Property ought to have its weight, but not all the weight. If the
Southern States are to supply money, the Northern States are to spill
their blood. Besides, the probable revenue to be expected from the
Southern States has been greatly overrated.--_pp_. 1056-7-8-9.
WEDNESDAY, July 11, 1787.
Mr. WILLIAMSON moved that Mr. RANDOLPH's propositions be postponed, in
order to consider the following, "that in order to ascertain the
alterations that may happen in the population and wealth of the
several States, a census shall be taken of the free white inhabitants,
and three-fifths of those of other descriptions on the first year
after this government shall have been adopted, and every ---- year
thereafter; and that the representation be regulated accordingly."
Mr. BUTLER and General PINCKNEY insisted that blacks be included in the
rule of representation _equally_ with the whites; and for that purpose
moved that the words "three-fifths" be struck out.
Mr. GERRY thought that three-fifths of them was, to say the least, the
full proportion that could be admitted.
Mr. GORHAM. This ratio was fixed by Congress as a rule of taxation.
Then, it was urged, by the Delegates representing the States having
slaves, that the blacks were still more inferior to freemen. At
present, when the ratio of representation is to be established, we are
assured that they are equal to freemen. The arguments on the former
occasion had convinced him, that three-fifths was pretty near the just
proportion, and he should vote according to the same opinion now.
Mr. BUTLER insisted that the labor of a slave in South Carolina was as
productive and valuable, as that of a freeman in Massachusetts; that
as wealth was the great means of defence and utility to the nation,
they were equally valuable to it with freemen; and that consequently
an equal representation ought to be allowed for them in a government
which was instituted principally, for the protection of property, and
was itself to be supported by property.
Mr. MASON could not agree to the motion, notwithstanding it was
favorable to Virginia, because he thought it unjust. It was certain
that the slaves were valuable, as they raised the value of land,
increased the exports and imports, and of course the revenue, would
supply the means of feeding and supporting an army, and might in cases
of emergency become themselves soldiers. As in these important
respects they were useful to the community at large, they ought not to
be excluded from the estimate of representation. He could not,
however, regard them as equal to freemen, and could not vote for them
as such. He added, as worthy of remark, that the Southern States have
this peculiar species of property, over and above the other species of
property common to all the States.
Mr. WILLIAMSON reminded Mr. GORHAM that if the Southern States
contended for the inferiority of blacks to whites when taxation was in
view, the Eastern States, on the same occasion, contended for their
equality. He did not, however, either then or now, concur in either
extreme, but approved of the ratio of three-fifths.
On Mr. BUTLER'S motion, for considering blacks as equal to whites in
the apportionment of representation,--Delaware, South Carolina,
Georgia, aye--3; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, no--7; New York, not on the floor.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS said he had several objections to the
proposition of Mr. WILLIAMSON. In the first place, it fettered the
Legislature too much. In the second place, it would exclude some
States altogether who would not have a sufficient number to entitle
them to a single representation. In the third place, it will not
consist with the resolution passed on Saturday last, authorizing the
Legislature to adjust the representation from time to time on the
principles of population and wealth; nor with the principles of
equity. If slaves were to be considered as inhabitants, not as wealth,
then the said Resolution would not be pursued; if as wealth, then why
is no other wealth but slaves included? These objections may perhaps
be removed by amendments.
Mr. KING thought there was great force in the objections of Mr.
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. He would, however, accede to the proposition for
the sake of doing something.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. Another objection with him, against admitting
the blacks into the census, was, that the people of Pennsylvania would
revolt at the idea of being put on a footing with slaves. They would
reject any plan that was to have such an effect.
Mr. MADISON. Future contributions, it seemed to be understood on all
hands, would be principally levied on imports and exports.--pp.
On the question on the first clause of Mr. WILLIAMSON's motion, as to
taking a census of the _free_ inhabitants, it passed in the
affirmative,--Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Virginia, North Carolina, aye--6; Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina,
The next clause as to three-fifths of the negroes being considered,
Mr. KING, being much opposed to fixing numbers as the rule of
representation, was particularly so on account of the blacks. He
thought the admission of them along with whites at all, would excite
great discontents among the States having no slaves. He had never
said, as to any particular point, that he would in no event acquiesce
in and support it; but he would say that if in any case such a
declaration was to be made by him, it would be in this.
He remarked that in the temporary allotment of representatives made by
the Committee, the Southern States had received more than the number
of their white and three-fifths of their black inhabitants entitled
Mr. SHERMAN. South Carolina had not more beyond her proportion than
New York and New Hampshire; nor either of them more than was necessary
in order to avoid fractions, or reducing them below their proportion.
Georgia had more; but the rapid growth of that State seemed to justify
it. In general the allotment might not be just, but considering all
circumstances he was satisfied with it.
Mr. GORHAM was aware that there might be some weight in what had
fallen from his colleague, as to the umbrage which might be taken by
the people of the Eastern States. But he recollected that when the
proposition of Congress for changing the eighth Article of the
Confederation was before the Legislature of Massachusetts, the only
difficulty then was, to satisfy them that the negroes ought not to
have been counted equally with the whites, instead of being counted in
the ratio of three-fifths only.
[Footnote 1: They were then to have been a rule of taxation only.]
Mr. WILSON did not well see, on what principle the admission of blacks
in the proportion of three-fifths could be explained. Are they
admitted as citizens--then why are they not admitted on an equality
with white citizens? Are they admitted as property--then why is not
other property admitted into the computation? These were difficulties,
however, which he thought must be overruled by the necessity of
compromise. He had some apprehensions also, from the tendency of the
blending of the blacks with the whites, to give disgust to the people
of Pennsylvania, as had been intimated by his colleague (Mr.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS was compelled to declare himself reduced to the
dilemma of doing injustice to the Southern States, or to human nature;
and he must therefore do it to the former. For he could never agree to
give such encouragement to the slave trade, as would be given by
allowing them a representation for their negroes; and he did not
believe those States would ever confederate on terms that would
deprive them of that trade.
On the question for agreeing to include three-fifths of the
blacks,--Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, aye--4;
Massachusetts, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, South
[Footnote 2: Mr. Carroll said, in explanation of the vote of Maryland,
that he wished the _phraseology_ to be so altered as to obviate, if
possible, the danger which had been expressed of giving umbrage to the
Eastern and Middle States.]
THURSDAY, July 12, 1787.
_In Convention_,--Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS moved a proviso, "that
taxation shall be in proportion to representation."
Mr. BUTLER contended again, that representation should be according to
the full number of inhabitants, including all the blacks; admitting
the justice of Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS'S motion.
General PINCKNEY was alarmed at what was said yesterday, [by
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS] concerning the negroes. He was now again alarmed at
what had been thrown out concerning the taxing of exports. South
Carolina has in one year exported to the amount of 600,000L. sterling,
all which was the fruit of the labor of her blacks. Will she be
represented in proportion to this amount? She will not. Neither ought
she then to be subject to a tax on it. He hoped a clause would be
inserted in the system, restraining the Legislature from taxing
Mr. WILSON approved the principle, but could not see how it could be
carried into execution; unless restrained to direct taxation.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS having so varied his motion by inserting the
word "direct," it passed, _nem. con_., as follows: "provided always
that direct taxation ought to be proportioned to representation"
Mr. DAVIE said it was high time now to speak out. He saw that it was
meant by some gentlemen to deprive the Southern States of any share of
representation for their blacks. He was sure that North Carolina would
never confederate on any terms that did not rate them at least as
three-fifths. If the Eastern States meant, therefore, to exclude them
altogether, the business was at an end.
Dr. JOHNSON thought that wealth and population were the true,
equitable rules of representation; but he conceived that these two
principles resolved themselves into one, population being the best
measure of wealth. He concluded, therefore, that the number of people
ought to be established as the rule, and that all descriptions,
including blacks _equally_ with the whites, ought to fall within the
computation. As various opinions had been expressed on the subject, he
would move that a committee might be appointed to take them into
consideration, and report them.
Mr. GOUVENEUR MORRIS. It had been said that it is high time to speak
out. As one member, he would candidly do so. He came here to form a
compact for the good of America. He was ready to do so with all the
States. He hoped, and believed, that all would enter into such
compact. If they would not, he was ready to join with any states that
would. But as the compact was to be voluntary, it is in vain for the
Eastern States to insist on what the Southern States will never agree
to. It is equally vain for the latter to require, what the other
States can never admit; and he verily believed the people of
Pennsylvania will never agree to a representation of negroes. What can
be desired by these States more than has been already proposed--that
the legislature shall from time to time regulate representation
according to population and wealth?
General PINCKNEY desired that the rule of wealth should be
ascertained, and not left to the pleasure of the legislature, and that
property in slaves should not be exposed to danger, under a government
instituted for the protection of property.
The first clause in the Report of the first Grand Committee was
Mr. ELLSWORTH, in order to carry into effect the principle
established, moved to add to the last clause adopted by the house the
words following, "and that the rule of contribution by direct
taxation, for the support of the Government of the United States,
shall be the number of white inhabitants, and three-fifths of every
other description in the several States, until some other rule that
shall more accurately ascertain the wealth of the several States, can
be devised and adopted by the Legislature."
Mr. BUTLER seconded the motion, in order that it might be committed.
Mr. RANDOLPH was not satisfied with the motion. The danger will be
revived, that the ingenuity of the Legislature may evade or pervert
the rule, so as to perpetuate the power where it shall be lodged in
the first instance. He proposed, in lieu of Mr. ELLSWORTH'S motion
"that in order to ascertain the alterations in representation that
stay be required, from time to time, by changes in the relative
circumstances of the States, a census shall be taken within two years
from the first meeting of the General Legislature of the United
States, and once within the term of every ---- years afterwards, of
all the inhabitants, in the manner and according to the ratio
recommended by Congress in their Resolution of the eighteenth day of
April, 1783, (rating the blacks at three-fifths of their number); and
that the Legislature of the United States shall arrange the
representation accordingly." He urged strenuously that express
security ought to be presided for including slaves in the ratio of
representation. He lamented that such a species of property existed.
But as it did exist, the holders of it would require this security.
It was perceived that the design was entertained by some of excluding
slaves altogether; the Legislature therefore ought not to be left at
Mr. ELLSWORTH withdraws his motion, and seconds that of Mr. RANDOLPH.
Mr. WILSON observed, that less umbrage would perhaps be taken against
an admission of the slaves into the rule of representation, if it
should be so expressed as to make them indirectly only an ingredient
in the rule, by saying that they should enter into the rule of
taxation; and as representation was to be according to taxation, the
end would be equally attained.
Mr. PINCKNEY moved to amend Mr. RANDOLPH'S motion, so as to make
"blacks equal to the whites in the ratio of representation." This,
he urged was nothing more than justice. The blacks are the laborers,
the peasants, of the Southern States. They are as productive of
pecuniary resources as those of the Northern States. They add equally
to the wealth, and, considering money as the sinew of war, to the
strength, of the nation. It will also be politic with regard to the
Northern States, as taxation is to keep pace with representation.
On Mr. PINCKNEY'S (of S. Carolina) motion, for rating blacks as equal
to whites, instead of as three-fifths,--South Carolina, Georgia,
aye--2; Massachusetts, Connecticut (Doctor JOHNSON, aye), New Jersey,
Pennsylvania (three against two), Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North
Mr. RANDOLPH'S (of Virginia) proposition, as varied by Mr. WILSON (of
Pennsylvania) being read for taking the question on the whole,--
Mr. GERRY (of Massachusetts) urged that the principle of it could not
be carried into execution, as the States were not to be taxed as
States. With regard to taxes on imposts, he conceived they would be
more productive where there were no slaves, than where there were; the
consumption being greater.
Mr. ELLSWORTH (of Connecticut). In the case of a poll-tax there would
be no difficulty. But there would probably be none. The sum allotted
to a State may be levied without difficulty, according to the plan
used by the State in raising its own supplies.
On the question on the whole proposition, as proportioning
representation to direct taxation, and both to the white and
three-fifths of the black inhabitants, and requiring a census within
six years, and within every ten years afterwards,--Connecticut,
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, aye--6; New
Jersey, Delaware, no--2; Massachusetts, South Carolina,
divided.--pp. 1079 to 1087.
Friday, July 13, 1787. Mr. MADISON said, that having always conceived
that the difference of interest in the United States lay not between
the large and small, but the Northern and Southern States.-p. 1088.
On the motion of Mr. RANDOLPH (of Virginia) the vote of Monday last,
authorizing the Legislature to adjust, from time to time, the
representation upon the principles of _wealth_ and numbers of
inhabitants, was reconsidered by common consent, in order to strike
out _wealth_ and adjust the resolution to that requiring periodical
revisions according to the number of whites and three-fifths of the
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (of Pennsylvania) opposed the alteration, as
leaving still an incoherence. If negroes were to be viewed as
inhabitants, and the revision was to proceed on the principle of
numbers of inhabitants, they ought to be added in their entire number,
and not in the proportion of three-fifths. If as property, the word
wealth was right; and striking it out would produce the very
inconsistency which it was meant to get rid of. The train of business,
and the late turn which it had taken, had led him, he said, into deep
meditation on it, and he would candidly state the result. A
distinction had been set up, and urged, between the Northern and
Southern States. He had hitherto considered this doctrine as
heretical. He still thought the distinction groundless. He sees,
however, that it is persisted in; and the Southern gentlemen will not
be satisfied unless they see the way open to their gaining a majority
in the public councils. The consequence of such a transfer of power
from the maritime to the interior and landed interest, will, he
foresees, be such an oppression to commerce, that he shall be obliged
to vote for the vicious principle of equality in the second branch, in
order to provide some defence for the Northern States against it. But
to come more to the point, either this distinction is fictitious or
real; if fictitious, let it be dismissed, and let us proceed with due
confidence. If it be real, instead of attempting to blend incompatible
things, let us at once take a friendly leave of each other. There can
be no end of demands for security, if every particular interest is to
be entitled to it. The Eastern States may claim it for their fishery,
and for other objects, as the Southern States claim it for their
peculiar objects. In this struggle between the two ends of the Union,
what part ought the Middle States, in point of policy, to take? To
join their Eastern brethren, according to his ideas. If the Southern
States get the power into their hands, and be joined, as they will be,
with the interior country, they will inevitably bring on a war with
Spain for the Mississippi. This language is already held. The interior
country, having no property nor interest exposed on the sea, will be
little affected by such a war. He wished to know what security the
Northern and Middle States will have against this danger. It has been
said that North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia only, will in a
little time have a majority of the people of America. They must in
that case include the great interior country, and every thing was to
be apprehended from their getting the power into their hands.
Mr. BUTLER (of South Carolina). The security the Southern States want
is, that their negroes may not be taken from them, which some
gentlemen within or without doors have a very good mind to do. It was
not supposed that North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, would
have more people than all the other States, but many more relatively
to the other States, than they now have. The people and strength of
America are evidently bearing southwardly, and southwestwardly.
On the question to strike out _wealth_, and to make the change
as moved by Mr. RANDOLPH (of Virginia) it passed in the
affirmative,--Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye--9;
Delaware, divided.--_pp_. 1090-1-2-3-4.
SATURDAY, July 14, 1787.
Mr. MADISON. It seemed now to be pretty well understood, that the real
difference of interests lay, not between the large and small, but
between the Northern and Southern, States. THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY,
AND IT'S CONSEQUENCES, FORMED THE LINE OF DISCRIMINATION.--_p_. 1104.
TUESDAY, July 17, 1787.
Mr. WILLIAMSON. The largest State will be sure to succeed. This will
not be Virginia, however. Her slaves will have no suffrage.--_p_.
THURSDAY, July 19, 1787.
Mr. MADISON. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the
Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no
influence in the election, on the score of the negroes.--p. 1148.
MONDAY, July 23, 1787.
General PINCKNEY reminded the Convention, that if the Committee should
fail to insert some security to the Southern States against an
emancipation of slaves, and taxes on exports, he should be bound by
duty to his State to vote against their report.--_p_. 1187.
TUESDAY, July 24, 1787.
Mr. WILLIAMSON. As the Executive is to have a kind of veto on the
laws, and there is an essential difference of interests between the
Northern and Southern States, particularly in the carrying trade, the
power will be dangerous, if the Executive is to be taken from part of
the Union, to the part from which he is not taken.--_p_. 1189.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS hoped the Committee would strike out the whole
of the clause proportioning direct taxation to representation. He had
only meant it as a bridge to assist us over a certain gulf; having
passed the gulf, the bridge may be removed. He thought the principle
laid down with so much strictness liable to strong objections.--_p_.
[Footnote 3: The object was to lessen the eagerness, on one side, for,
and the opposition, on the other, to the share of representation
claimed by the Southern States on account of the negroes.]
WEDNESDAY, July 25, 1787.
Mr. MADISON. Refer the appointment of the National Executive to the
State Legislatures, and * * *
The remaining mode was an election by the people, or rather by the
qualified part of them at large. * * *
The second difficulty arose from the disproportion of qualified voters
in the Northern and Southern States, and the disadvantages which this
mode would throw on the latter. The answer to this objection was--in
the first place, that this disproportion would be continually
decreasing under the influence of the republican laws introduced in
the Southern States, and the more rapid increase of their population;
in the second place, that local considerations must give way to the
general interest. As an individual from the Southern States, he was
willing to make the sacrifice.--pp. 1200-1.
THURSDAY, July 26, 1787.
Mr. Gouverneur Morris. Revenue will be drawn, it is foreseen, as much
as possible from trade.--p. 1217.
MONDAY, August 6, 1787.
Mr. Rutledge delivered in the Report of the Committee of Detail.
SECT. 3. The proportions of direct taxation shall be regulated by the
whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every
age, sex and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term
of years, and three-fifths of all other persons not comprehended in
the foregoing description, (except Indians not paying taxes); which
number shall, within six years after the first meeting of the
Legislature, and within the term of every ten years afterwards, be
taken in such a manner as the said Legislature shall direct.
SECT. 4. No tax or duty shall be laid by the Legislature on articles
exported from any State; nor on the migration or importation of such
persons as the several States shall think proper to admit; nor shall
such migration or importation be prohibited.
SECT. 5. No capitation tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the
census herein before directed to be taken.
SECT. 6. No navigation act shall be passed without the assent of
two-thirds of the members present in each house.--pp. 1226-33-34.
WEDNESDAY, August 8, 1787.
Mr. King wished to know what influence the vote just passed was meant
to have on the succeeding part of the Report, concerning the admission
of slaves into the rule of representation. He could not reconcile his
mind to the Article, if it was to prevent objections to the latter
part. The admission of slaves was a most grating circumstance to his
mind, and he believed would be so to a great part of the people of
America. He had not made a strenuous opposition to it heretofore,
because he had hoped that this concession would have produced a
readiness, which had not been manifested, to strengthen the General
Government, and to mark a full confidence in it. The Report under
consideration had, by the tenor of it, put an end to all those hopes.
In two great points the hands of the Legislature were absolutely tied.
The importation of slaves could not be prohibited. Exports could not
be taxed. Is this reasonable? What are the great objects of the
general system? First, defence against foreign invasion; secondly,
against internal sedition. Shall all the States, then, be bound to
defend each, and shall each be at liberty to introduce a weakness
which will render defence more difficult? Shall one part of the United
States be bound to defend another part, and that other part be at
liberty, not only to increase its own danger, but to withhold the
compensation for the burden? If slaves are to be imported, shall not
the exports produced by their labor supply a revenue the better to
enable the General Government to defend their masters? There was so
much inequality and unreasonableness in all this, that the people of
the Northern States could never be reconciled to it. No candid man
could undertake to justify it to them. He had hoped that some
accommodation would have taken place on this subject; that at least a
time would have been limited for the importation of slaves. He never
could agree to let them be imported without limitation, and then be
represented in the National Legislature. Indeed, he could so little
persuade himself of the rectitude of such a practice, that he was not
sure be could assent to it under any circumstances. At all events,
either slaves should not be represented, or exports should be taxable.
Mr. SHERMAN regarded the slave trade as iniquitous; but the point of
representation having been settled after much difficulty and
deliberation, he did not think himself bound to make opposition;
especially as the present Article, as amended, did not preclude any
arrangement whatever on that point, in another place of the report.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS moved to insert "free" before the word
"inhabitants." Much, he said, would depend on this point. He never
would concur in upholding domestic slavery. It was a nefarious
institution. It was the curse of Heaven on the States where it
prevailed. Compare the free regions of the Middle States, where a rich
and noble cultivation marks the prosperity and happiness of the
people, with the misery and poverty which overspread the barren wastes
of Virginia, Maryland, and the other States having slaves. Travel
through the whole continent, and you behold the prospect continually
varying with the appearance and disappearance of slavery. The moment
you leave the Eastern States, and enter New York, the effects of the
institution become visible. Passing through the Jerseys and entering
Pennsylvania, every criterion of superior improvement witnesses the
change. Proceed southwardly, and every step you take, through the
great regions of slaves, presents a desert increasing with the
increasing proportion of these wretched beings. Upon what principle is
it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are they
men? Then make them citizens, and let them vote. Are they property?
Why, then, is no other property included? The houses in this city
(Philadelphia) are worth more than all the wretched slaves who cover
the rice swamps of South Carolina. The admission of slaves into the
representation, when fairly explained, comes to this, that the
inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina who goes to the coast of
Africa, and, in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity, tears
away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections, and damns
them to the most cruel bondage, shall have more votes in a government
instituted for protection of the rights of mankind, than the citizen
of Pennsylvania or New Jersey, who views with a laudable horror so
nefarious a practice. He would add, that domestic slavery is the most
prominent feature in the aristocratic countenance of the proposed
Constitution. The vassalage of the poor has ever been the favorite
offspring of aristocracy. And what is the proposed compensation to the
Northern States, for a sacrifice of every principle of right, of every
impulse of humanity? They are to bind themselves to march their
militia for the defence of the Southern States, for their defence
against those very slaves of whom they complain. They must supply
vessels and seamen, in case of foreign attack. The Legislature will
have indefinite power to tax them by excises, and duties on imports;
both of which will fall heavier on them than on the Southern
inhabitants; for the bohea tea used by a Northern freeman will pay
more tax than the whole consumption of the miserable slave, which
consists of nothing more than his physical subsistence and the rag
that covers his nakedness. On the other side, the Southern States are
not to be restrained from importing fresh supplies of wretched
Africans, at once to increase the danger of attack, and the difficulty
of defence; nay, they are to be encouraged to it, by an assurance of
having their votes in the National Government increased in proportion;
and are, at the same time, to have their exports and their slaves
exempt from all contributions for the public service. Let it not be
said, that direct taxation is to be proportioned to representation. It
is idle to suppose that the General Government can stretch its hand
directly into the pockets of the people, scattered over so vast a
country. They can only do it through the medium of exports, imports
and excises. For what, then, are all the sacrifices to be made? He
would sooner submit himself to a tax for paying for all the negroes in
the United States, than saddle posterity with such a Constitution.
Mr. DAYTON seconded the motion. He did it, he said, that his
sentiments on the subject might appear, whatever might be the fate of
Mr. SHERMAN did not regard the admission of the negroes into the ratio
of representation, as liable to such insuperable objections. It was
the freemen of the Southern States who were, in fact, to be
represented according to the taxes paid by them, and the negroes are
only included in the estimate of the taxes. This was his idea of the
Mr. PINCKNEY considered the fisheries, and the western frontier, as
more burdensome to the United States than the slaves. He thought this
could be demonstrated, if the occasion were a proper one.
Mr. WILSON thought the motion premature. An agreement to the clause
would be no bar to the object of it.
On the question, on the motion to insert "free" before "inhabitants,"
New-Jersey, aye--1; New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut,
Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Georgia, no--10.--pp. 1261-2-3-4-5-6.
THURSDAY, August 16, 1787.
Mr. MASON urged the necessity of connecting with the powers of levying
taxes, duties, &c., the prohibition in Article 6, Sect. 4, "that no
tax should be laid on exports."
He hoped the Northern States did not mean to deny the Southern this
MR. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS considered such a proviso as inadmissible
MR. MADISON. Fourthly, the Southern States, being most in danger and
most needing naval protection, could the less complain, if the burthen
should be somewhat heaviest on them. And finally, we are not providing
for the present moment only; and time will equalize the situation of
the States in this matter. He was, for these reasons, against the
MR. MERCER. It had been said the Southern States had most need of
naval protection. The reverse was the case. Were it not for promoting
the carrying trade of the Northern States, the Southern States could
let the trade go into foreign bottoms, where it would not need our
TUESDAY, August 21, 1787.
Articles 7, Section 3, was then resumed.
MR. DICKINSON moved to postpone this, in order to reconsider Article
4, Section 4, and to _limit_ the number of Representatives to be
allowed to the large States. Unless this were done, the small States
would be reduced to entire insignificance, and encouragement given to
the importation of slaves.
MR. SHERMAN would agree to such a reconsideration; but did not see the
necessity of postponing the section before the House. MR. DICKINSON
withdrew his motion.
Article 7, Section 3, was then agreed to,--ten ayes; Delaware alone,
Article 7, Section 4, was then taken up.
MR. LANGDON. By this section the States are left at liberty to tax
exports. This could not be admitted. It seems to be feared that the
Northern States will oppress the trade of the Southern. This may be
guarded against, by requiring the concurrence of two-thirds, or
three-fourths of the Legislature, in such cases.--p. 1382-3.
MR. MADISON. As to the fear of disproportionate burthens on the more
exporting States, it might be remarked that it was agreed, on all
hands, that the revenue would principally be drawn from trade.--p.
COL. MASON--A majority, when interested, will oppress the minority.
If we compare the States in this point of view, the eight Northern
States have an interest different from the five Southern States; and
have, in one branch of the Legislature, thirty-six votes, against
twenty-nine, and in the other in the proportion of eight against five.
The Southern States had therefore ground for their suspicions. The
case of exports was not the same with that of imports.--pp. 1386-7.
MR. L. MARTIN proposed to vary Article 7, Section 4, so as to allow a
prohibition or tax on the importation of slaves. In the first place,
as five slaves are to be counted as three freemen, in the
apportionment of Representatives, such a clause would leave an
encouragement to this traffic. In the second place, slaves weakened
one part of the Union, which the other parts were bound to protect;
the privilege of importing them was therefore unreasonable. And in the
third place, it was inconsistent with the principles of the
Revolution, and dishonorable to the American character, to have such a
feature in the Constitution.
Mr. RUTLEDGE did not see how the importation of slaves could be
encouraged by this section. He was not apprehensive of insurrections,
and would readily exempt the other States from the obligation to
protect the Southern against them. Religion and humanity had nothing
to do with this question. Interest alone is the governing principle
with nations. The true question at present is, whether the Southern
States shall or shall not be parties to the Union. If the Northern
States consult their interest, they will not oppose the increase of
slaves, which will increase the commodities of which they will become
Mr. ELLSWORTH was for leaving the clause as it stands. Let every State
import what it pleases. The morality or wisdom of slavery are
considerations belonging to the States themselves. What enriches a
part enriches the whole, and the States are the best judges of their
particular interest. The Old Confederation had not meddled with this
point; and he did not see any greater necessity for bringing it within
the policy of the new one.
Mr. PINCKNEY. South Carolina can never receive the plan if it
prohibits the slave trade. In every proposed extension of the powers
of Congress, that State has expressly and watchfully excepted that of
meddling with the importation of negroes. If the States be all left at
liberty on this subject, South Carolina may perhaps, by degrees, do of
herself what is wished, as Virginia and Maryland already have done.
WEDNESDAY, August 22, 1787.
_In Convention_,--Article 7, Section 4, was resumed.
Mr. SHERMAN was for leaving the clause as it stands. He disapproved of
the slave trade; yet as the States were now possessed of the right to
import slaves, as the public good did not require it to be taken from
them, and as it was expedient to have as few objections as possible to
the proposed scheme of government, he thought it best to leave the
matter as we find it. He observed that the abolition of slavery seemed
to be going on in the United States, and that the good sense of the
several States would probably by degrees complete it. He urged on the
Convention the necessity of despatching its business.
Col. MASON. This infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British
merchants. The British Government constantly checked the attempts of
Virginia to put a stop to it. The present question concerns not the
importing States alone, but the whole Union. The evil of having slaves
was experienced during the late war. Had slaves been treated as they
might have been by the enemy, they would have proved dangerous
instruments in their hands. But their folly dealt by the slaves as it
did by the tories. He mentioned the dangerous insurrections of the
slaves in Greece and Sicily; and the instructions given by Cromwell to
the commissioners sent to Virginia, to arm the servants and slaves, in
case other means of obtaining its submission should fail. Maryland and
Virginia he said had already prohibited the importation of slaves
expressly. North Carolina had done the same in substance. All this
would be in vain, if South Carolina and Georgia be at liberty to
import. The Western people are already calling out for slaves for
their new lands; and will fill that country with slaves, if they can
be got through South Carolina and Georgia. Slavery discourages arts
and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves.
They prevent the emigration of whites, who really enrich and
strengthen a country. They produce the most pernicious effect on
manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the
judgment of Heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or
punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable
chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by
national calamities. He lamented that some of our Eastern brethren
had, from a lust of gain, embarked in this nefarious traffic. As to
the States being in possession of the right to import, this was the
case with many other rights, now to be properly given up. He held it
essential in every point of view, that the General Government should
have power to prevent the increase of slavery.
Mr. ELLSWORTH, as he had never owned a slave, could not judge of the
effects of slavery on character. He said, however, that if it was to
be considered in a moral light, we ought to go further and free those
already in the country. As slaves also multiply so fast in Virginia
and Maryland that it is cheaper to raise than import them, whilst in
the sickly rice swamps foreign supplies are necessary, if we go no
further than is urged, we shall be unjust towards South Carolina and
Georgia. Let us not intermeddle. As population increases, poor