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trade? I know that the Bishop of Gloucester, in an annual sermon in London, in February, 1776, endeavored to justify their tyrannical claims of power over us by casting the reproach of the slave trade upon the Americans.
But at the close of the war, the Bishop of Chester, in an annual sermon, in February, 1783, ingenuously owned that their nation is the most deeply involved in the guilt of that trade of any nation in the world; and, also, that they have treated their slaves in the West Indies worse than the French or Spaniards have done theirs.
Thus slavery grows more odious through the world ; and as an honorable gentleman said, some days ago, “ Though we cannot say that slavery is struck with an apoplexy, yet we may hope it will die with consumption."
Mr. Dawes said he was sorry to hear so many objections raised against the paragraph under consideration. He thought them wholly unfounded; that the black inhabitants of the Southern States must be considered either as slaves, and as so much property, or in the character of so many freemen; if the former, why should they not be wholly represented ? Our own State laws and Constitutione would lead us to consider these blacks as freemen, and so indeed, would our own ideas of natural justice. If, then, they are freemen, they might form an equal basis for representation as though they were all white inhabitants.
In either view, therefore, he could not see that the Northern States would suffer, but directly to the contrary. He thought, however, that gentlemen would do well to connect the passage in dispute with another article in the Constitution, that permits Congress, in the year 1808, wholly to prohibit the importation of slaves, and in the mean time to impose a duty of ten dollars a head on such blacks as should be imported before that period. Besides, by the new Constitution, every particular State is left to its own option totally to prohibit the introduction or slaves
into its own territories. What could the Convention do more? The members of the Sonthern States, like ourselves, have their prejudices. It would not do to abolish slavery, by an Act of Congress, in a moment, and so destroy what our Southern brethren consider as property.
But we may say, that although slavery is not smitten by apoplexy, yet it has received a mortal wound, and will die of consumption.
Gen. Heath said, the paragraph respecting the migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, &c., is one of those considered during my absence, and I have beard nothing on the subject, save what has been mentioned this morning; but I think the gentlemen who have spoken have carried the matter rather too far on both sides.
I apprehend that it is not in our power to do any thing for or against those who are in slavery in the Southern States.
No gentleman within these walls detests every idea of slavery more than I do: it is generally detested by the people of this commonwealth ; and I ardently hope that the time will soon come when our brethren in the Southern States will view it as we do, and put a stop to it; but to this we have no right to compel them. Two questions naturally arise. If we ratify the Constitution, shall we do anything by our act to hold the blacks in slavery? Or shall we become partakers of other men's sins? I think, neither of them. Each State is sovereign and independent to a certain degree, and the States have a right, and they will regulate their own internal affairs as to themselves appears proper; and shall we refuse to eat, or to drink, or to be united, with those who do not think, or act, just as we do ? Surely not. We are not, in this case, partakers of other men's sins; for iu nothing do we voluntarily encourage the slavery of our fellow wan.
Mr. President: After a long and painful investigation of the Federal Constitution, by paragraphs, this honorable Convention is drawing nigh to the ultimate question- & question as momentous as ever invited the attention of man.
We are soon to decide on & system of government, digested, not for the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts only—not for the present people of the United States only—but, in addition to these, for all those States which may hereafter rise into existence within the jurisdiction of the United States, and for millions of people yet unborn ; a system of government, not for a nation of slaves, but for a people as free and virtuous as any on earth ; not for a conquered nation, subdued to our will, but for a people who have fonght, who have bled, and who have conquered; who under the smiles of Heaven, have established their independence and sovereignty, and have taken equal rank among the nations of the earth.
In short, sir, it is a system of government for ourselves and for our children, for all that is near and dear to us in life ; and on the decision of the question is suspended our political prosperity or infelicity, perhaps our existence as & nation. What can be more solemn ? What can be more interesting ? Everything depends on our union. I know that some have supposed, that although the union should be broken, particular States may retain their importance; but this cannot be.
The strongest nerved State, even the right arm, if separated from the body, must wither. If the great union be broken, our country, as a nation, perisbes; and if our country so perishes, it will be as impossible to save a particular State as to preserve one of the fingers of a mortified hand.
By one of the paragraphs of the system, it is declared that the ratifications of the Conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of the Constitution between
the States so ratifying the same. But, sir, how happy will it be if, not only nine, but even all the States should ratify it.
It will be a happy circumstance if only a small majority of this Convention should ratify the federal system; but how much more happy if we could be unanimous! And if there are any means whereby they may be united, every exertion should be made to effect it. I presame, sir, that there is not a single gentleman within these walls who does not wish for a federal government—for an efficient federal government; and that this government should be possessed of every power necessary to enable it to shed on the people the benign influence of a good government.
The third paragraph of the 2d section being read, Mr. King, a member of the Federal Convention, rose to explain it. There has, says he, been much misconception of this section. It is a principle of this Constitution that representation and taxation should go hand in hand. This paragraph states that to the 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 shall be added. These persons are the slaves. By this rule are representation and taxation to be apportioned; and it was adopted, because it was the language of all America. According to the Confederation, ratified in 1781, the sums for the general welfare and defense should be apportioned according to the surveyed lands, and improvements thereon, in the several States; but that it hath never been in the power of Congress to follow that rule, the returns from the several States being so very imperfect.
EXTRACTS FROM THE DEBATES IN THE CONVEN.
TION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK. June 20, 1788. *Mr. Hamilton said : In order that the committee may understand clearly the principle on which the general Convention acted, I think it necessary to explain some preliminary circumstances. Sir, the natural situation of this country seems to divide its interests into different classes. There are navigating and non-navigating States. The Northern are properly navigating States; the Southern appear to possess neither the means nor the spirit of navi. gation. This difference or situation naturally produces a dissimilarity of interests and views respecting foreign commerce. It was the interest of the Northern States that there should be no restraints on their navigation, and that they should have full power, by a majority in Congress, to make commercial regulations in favor of their own, and in restraint of the navigation of foreigners. The Southern States wished to impose a restraint on the Northern, by requiring that two-thirds in Congress should be requisite to pass an act in regulation of commerce. They were apprehensive that the restraints of a navigation law would discourage foreigners, and, by obliging them to employ the shipping of the Northern States, would probably enhance their freight. This being the case, they insisted strenuously on having this provision engrafted in the Constitution; and the Northern States were as anxious in opposivg it. On the other hand, the small States, seeing themselves embraced by the Confederation upon equal terms, wished to retain the advantages which they already possessed. The large States, on the contrary, thought it improper that Rhode Island and Delaware should enjoy an equal soffrage with themselves.
* Mr. Hamilton was the only delegate in the New York Convention that discussed, or expressed an opinion on tha subject of slavery.