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had from the beginning exercised many of the prerogatives of republican freemen, republican principles were early imbibed, and jealously guarded. But in the colonies, which were under the proprietary and royal governments, although in some a share in the administration of civil affairs was accorded to the people, yet it was so small a share, that the republican principles were not readily disseminated among them; and to this day are very imperfectly appreciated in that part of the country where they were. Of all the colonies however, it must be acknowledged, that the protection or extension of some right or privilege, was the leading purpose of their mutual counsels and united efforts. Most of the people looked no further than to the promotion of their own immediate interests. Individuals there were, who entertained some of those generous conceptions of a righteous government, which the true christian republican of the present day delights to cherish, and labors to realize. But the people generally had not discerned the rights that are common to all men, and which cannot be alienated from any without the most grievous wrong, and daring sin. The American colonies were not in this respect, in advance of the rest of the world. Their own grievances had opened their eyes, so that they could see clearly the rights of some men, but not the rights of all. While they were complaining of the aggressions of the British government, and mustering all their strength to resist them, they were holding several hundred thousands in the abject condition of slavery. When the American Revolution began it had scarcely been intimated in all christendom, that the enslavement of the Africans was an outrage on human rights. Three or four solitary individuals in England and America, had at long intervals remonstrated against it; but the public mind was unmoved. The African slave trade was prosecuted with growing rapacity, and without any general condemnation. In 1771, one hundred and ninty two ships sailed from England to the coast of Africa provided for the importation of more than 47,000 slaves. Nor did the amount of this accursed traffic decrease much in twenty years, for Bryan Ed wards, the historian of the West Indies, ascertained, thatin 1793, the whole number annually exported from Afric by all the European powers, was 74,000, of which 38,000 were exported by the British merchants. Not that the loors of
Sharp, and Clarkson, and Wilberforce, were without avail. In England, every month added to the number of their converts; and in this country there were not a few who responded to their cry, and extended to them a helping hand. But whatever may have been the sentiments of individuals in America respecting the enslavement of the Africans, there was not at the commencement of the Revolution any general opinion against it even in New England. When the thirteen American colonies in 1777, united under the articles of confederation, slavery existed in all of them; and it still continued in all of them excepting three or four in 1788, when the present constitution was formed. Among the articles of confederation, by which in 1777 the American states consummated their Union, there was not one that seems to have had any reference to the slaves, in any way. In the enumeration of the powers to be entrusted to Congress, there was no clause under which that body could have abolished the African Slave Trade, or the domestic traffic in human beings-the regulation of commerce was in no wise committed to it. In short, under the old confederation, there was not an inch of ground upon which the national legislature could have stood in an attempt to relieve the enslaved population of the land, how much soever the public sentiment might have come to require it. Now we expect to shew that, under the new constitution of 1788, so far from any arrangement having been made between the several states, by which any general action on the subject of slavery is precluded, the friends of humanity, and the enemies of slavery have obtained some advantages for the prosecution of their benevolent purposes, which they had not under the old form of government. It is not enough for our opposers to say, that the Constitution did not itself abolish slavery, nor empower Congress to abolish it. It is not enough that they can point to two or three articles, in which the existence of slavery in some parts of the confederacy is indirectly recognized. If they would prove their allegation, they must shew that the Constitution itself has placed a barrier in the way of those who desire to abolish slavery, nay, that it has in fact provided for the perpetuity of this abomination in our land.
Of course we shall not be understood to mean that the framers of our Constitution did all for the relief of the co
lored population that justice and humanity demanded. We only insist that they entered into no compact to perpetuate their bondage, or to hinder their future enfranchisement. If we were better acquainted with all that transpired on the subject, we might be satisfied that nothing more explicitly favorable could have been introduced; and that if it had been, the majority of the states would have rejected it. But some will say the delegates from the Northern. States made us partners in the iniquity by assenting to a Constitution under which slavery might subsist. Before any one adopts this decision, let him consider that the States represented in the Convention were already united under a general government-that slavery was already established in them and that the rejection of the new Constitution would not have abolished slavery, nor have dissolved the partnership of the North in the iniquity of the South. It would have left the States still united under the old confederation, which was devised in the emergency of the Revolution, and found to be a very feeble bond, and an inefficient form of government; and, as we expect to show, was far less auspicious to the colored population. We agree that the northern delegates ought to have resisted to the last such a compromise as our opposers would have the public believe was made in the Constitution. They ought to have resisted it, even if by so doing they would have thrown back the confederacy into its original elements.But no such compromise is there.-All that can be adduced, in support of the allegation, are three circumlocutory articles, the meaning, force and tendency of which we are now prepared to scrutinize.
Surely the Preamble to the Constitution admonishes us not to expect any provision for the continuance of a system of oppression, which the men in that Convention were too intelligent to perceive was an outrage upon the rights of man; and were too sagacious not to foresee would destroy domestic tranquility, impair the general welfare, and ultimately dissolve the Union. If they were sincere in wishing to promote the purposes therein avowed, nothing
The published Report of the proceedings of the Convention is lamentably meagre; but we may gather from it, and from the result of those proceedings, as given in the Constitution, that slavery and the slave trade were topics of no little consideration and debate. We look forward with eager expectation to the report about to be published from the manuscript of the late James Madison.
could have been further from their intention than to admit any thing into the Constitution which would perpetuate slavery.
In the Article I., however, 2d Section, third clause, there is a passage which our opposers confidently insist on as being a provision made for the perpetuity of the slave system. It is as follows:
"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."
Now it seems to us obvious, that this clause was not worded thus for the sake of giving any sanction or countenance to slavery-much less any guaranty of its undisturbed continuance-but merely to satisfy the demand of the southern delegates for what they considered a more equal representation of their states. A large portion of the population in those states-nearly all the laboring class -were slaves occupying the place of those who in the other It was states being freemen, were of course represented. therefore claimed by the southern members of the Convention, that some representation of that portion of their inhabitants ought to be allowed, else they would not have their due weight in the councils of the nation. With what reason this claim was urged, it is not for us now to inquire. Those who then urged it, thought they had reason enough on their side; and were anxious no doubt to procure for the laboring population of their states even the same representation that was unhesitatingly accorded to the laboring population of the Northern States. All that we are concerned now to ascertain is, whether in the construction of the article framed so as to satisfy in part their demand, there is any thing designed or adapted to sustain slavery. We think we can discover in it something, which, on the contrary, tends to subvert the system. In the first place, the very careful avoidance of the word slaves, at the expense of an uneasy circumlocution, is to us an impressive evidence that the weight of sentiment and feeling in that Convention was against the system, by which the unalienable
rights of man are entirely set at nought. If they meant to do what our opposers say they did, why were they not explicit? Were those men afraid to do what they thought ought to be done? Would our opposers have it believed, that they meant to smuggle into the Constitution of their country, an article which they were ashamed to admit openly?
Secondly-by calling those to whom the clause refers, persons, and admitting them to be represented as such in the councils of the nation, the convention repudiated the idea of their being no more than "chattels personal," and passed an implied condemnation upon all who hold them as such. At least, this appears to us a fairer interpretation than our opposers have put upon it, because it is more in accordance with their intentions as avowed in the preamble of the Constitution.
And thirdly, the refusal to admit those persons to an equal representation with other classes, far from expressing any approval of their degraded condition, intimated the contrary, and held out an inducement to their oppressors to raise them at least to the grade of "those bound to service for a term of years," in order that the states where they live may be represented according to the whole number of their inhabitants, instead of a part. At this day, if slavery should be abolished, and the two-fifths of those who are now excluded, be admitted to representation, some of our southern states would be authorized to send to Congress several members more than they now do. This is a disadvantage-under some circumstances a great disadvantage—– which is imposed upon those states, by the Constitution, so long as they persist in the enslavement of their laboring population. One million of the inhabitants of the slave states are now by this article excluded from the enumera
*The first aspect of this article is particularly offensive. It seems as if it gave to the oppressors additional power in the national legislature (in a certain proportion to the number of their victims) thereby enabling them more effectually to secure themselves in the violations of the rights of man. But we deem the aspect put upon it above, to be more just. Let it be remembered the qualifications requisite for electors are determined by the state governments. They are different in different states. In all of them thousands are enumerated and represented, who are not admitted to the election of their representatives. If injustice is done in this way to any, the blame attaches to the state, and not to the national constitution. This we have shown above offers a strong inducement to the slave states to cease from slavery.