Puslapio vaizdai

vigorously prosecuted. The concession made to Georgia and the Carolinas was temporary and limited; the point carried was of a permanent character.

There still remains one other clause of the constitutior, relied upon as sanctioning slavery in the states. “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.” It may be worth while to mention in this connection, that in the original draft of the apportionment clause, the phrase “bound to servitude” was used, following in this respect the proposed amendment to the articles of confederation from which the idea of the federal ratio was derived. But " servitude" was struck out, and “service” substituted, as Madison informs us, because “servitude " seemed to be only appropriate to express the condition of slavery. Yet in the article now under consideration, the term “service” is employed ; -“no person held to service or labor.” But without dwelling on this distinction, it is sufficient for our purpose to refer to the pointed difference between this and the apportionment clause, in the express reference which this clause makes to law. Practice, usage, fact merely, is not sufficient, but law is required. “No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof," &c. The question, then, whether this clause stipulates for the return of fugitive slaves, is entirely dependent on the previous question whether there is any lawful slavery in any of the states; - a question upon which this clause expresses no opinion, and throws not the slightest light whatever. If there is any such slavery, it must exist by virtue of state laws, laws complete and authoritative in themselves; for whatever might have been the intention, or whatever the legal effect of this clause, it neither intended to give, nor has it any effect to give, a legal or rightful character to claims of service not previously rightful and legal.

The three clauses of the Federal constitution above considered, are the only portions of that instrument whch have ever been set up as giving any sanction to the slave system of the states. So far from finding in these clauses any such sanction, we find, on the contrary, evidence of a fixed determination in the constitution not to yield it. They contain no endorsement of the slave laws of the states, no recognition even of slavery as a state institution, entitled to the favorable regard of the Federal government. General Pinckney of South Carolina, in the course of the debates of the convention, more than once insisted on some such guaranty for slave property ; but, so far from yielding to this demand, the greatest care was taken not to admit into the constitution the idea that there could be property in men; that is to say, the very fundamental idea upon which the whole slave system rests. It was impossible for the Federal constitution, by its own proper vigor, to abolish slavery, or to make its abolition one of the conditions of the federal compact; for on such conditions no constitution could be formed; but on the other hand, the greatest care was taken not to give any sanction to a practice or a principle so inconsistent with those natural rights upon which all the American constitutions professed to be founded.

This view of the Federal constitution corresponds very nearly with the view taken of it, both north and south, for many years subsequent to its adoption. It is only within a very recent period that the idea has been set up, that the “

compromises of the constitution” include the recognition of slavery as an institution of the states, or some of them, entitled to protection and support. Not only does the Federal constitution, so far from recognizing slavery in that character, take the greatest pains to avoid doing so; but in point of fact, as we maintain, slavery is not even a state institution, legally speaking, but a mere usurpation, unsupported by law, and in that character certainly not entitled to support or countenance from the Federal government, or any other.

But, if the Federal constitution, though cautiously avoiding to commit the union to the support of slavery, has yet left the determination of the rights of the inhabitants of the states to the state authorities; even allowing that slavery exists by usurpation and not by law, — has the Federal government any warrant to interfere, in any way, to set this matter right? Is it not bound to wait patiently till the state authorities shall themselves do it?

Besides the specific and particular powers conferred upon Congress by the Federal constitution, that body, by a clause of a very extensive and comprehensive character, is authorized “to provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States.” Now suppose the opinion to be adopted by the majority of the people, that the “common defence and general welfare of the United States,” their defence against invasion from abroad, and insurrection at home; their welfare, moral, social, and economical, demand the termination of the system of slavery ; — and in this point of view, it seems to matter but little, whether we consider that system an illegal usurpation, or a legal institution of those states in which it exists ; — suppose the conclusion to be arrived at, that the continued existence of slavery, whether legal or not, will be fatal to the success of that great democratic experiment, which the American people are now making; — looking at the matter in this point of view, has not the Federal government a right to interfere, and to adopt such measures as seem best calculated to stop the increase of this evil, and to bring it to an end ? If, under the clause above cited, Congress had power to buy Louisiana, to buy Florida, to annex Texas, to buy California, has it not power, under the same clause, to vote money and take other needful steps towards the liberation of some millions of native-born inhabitants from most cruel servitude ?

It is true, that heretofore Congress has not legislated with this intention. It is also true, that, on a petition signed by Franklin and others, and presented to the first Congress, praying that body to take measures for the abolition of slavery, the conclusion was arrived at after a warm debate, that Congress had no jurisdiction over the subject of slavery within the states. But this decision, binding only on the Congress that made it, though very generally acquiesced in since, still remains open to revision; and a change of circumstances, changing the light in which the question presents itself, cannot fail to have a serious influence on the decision to be made upon it.

When the first Congress met, slavery was a crime and disgrace in which the whole of Christendom was more or less involved; and in the wars which the nations of Europe carried on with each other, their practices in this matter were mutually respected. When France, England, Spain, and Holland invaded each other's colonies, they never thought of putting arms into the hands of the slaves. Early in our Revolutionary war, some suggestion was thrown out in the British House of Commons, that the slaves in the southern states might be liberated, armed, and employed to keep those colonies in subjection; but the opposition, headed by Burke and Fox, denounced the idea as barbarous, atrocious, and infamous, and the suggestion, never seriously entertained, remained unacted upon. Mason of Virginia feelingly acknowledged in the Federal convention, that if the British had availed themselves, as they might have done, of the aid of the negroes, the war in the southern states might have had a very different termination.

During the last war with England, a plan, it is said, was formed, for occupying the peninsula between the Chesapeake and the Delaware with a British army, turning it into an asylum for the slaves of Virginia and Maryland, to whom liberty was to be proclaimed ; organizing and training a black

army, under English officers, and marching with it to the conquest of the South. But Britain had slaves of her own; it would not do to set an example of insurrection and of liberty won at the point of the bayonet; and this brilliant scheme was consequently abandoned. Had it been energetically undertaken, something more might have happened than the burning of the Capitol.

Since that period, opinions have greatly changed. England has abolished slavery throughout her wide-spread dominions. France has but a very slight interest in it, and is seeking to get rid of that.* All Christendom cries out against it. Should we become involved in war with France or England, especially with England, - and war with England is one of the commonplaces of our politics, - no matter what the cause or origin of the war, a proclamation of freedom to the enslaved would sanctify it in the eyes of the world. It would become the cause of humanity against despotism; - a despotism the more hateful from its attempt to cloak itself with the name of democracy, and from its audacious efforts to trample out the doctrine of the rights of man, in the community in which that doctrine was first proclaimed as the basis of political organization. The enemy would strike us in our vital parts, and Christendom would honor and applaud the blow. Under these circumstances, will not due regard to the common defence” justify Congress in adopting a course of legislative policy, such as may narrow, limit, restrict, and tend to the extinction of a source of weakness, which no provision of forts and steamfrigates can guard against ?

The “ welfare of the United States,” their internal well-being, apart from any dangers from without, and more especially the welfare of the slave states themselves seems to call still louder for Congressional interference. The perception of the evils of slavery has, till recently, been confined to an enlightened and reflecting few, - a class of persons more inclined to think than to act, and disabled, by the smallness of their number, from any effectual political action. But sensibility to those evils, especially to the obstacles which the existence of slavery opposes to the further extension of the principles of equality and justice, even in their application to the free, thanks to the efforts and labors of those known as abolitionists, – is now beginning to penetrate the mass; to find representatives and an expression in the legislatures of the free states, and even in Congress. When a majority in Congress come to be thoroughly impregnated with these ideas; when they come to look upon slavery, not merely as an evil, a calamity, a thing to be lamented and regretted, but as a fatal obstacle to the progress of our free institutions, a consuming cancer eating into the heart of our liberties, and threatening the extinction of those principles upon which our constitutions are founded ; — perceiving that the “ welfare of the United States” is seriously compromised, - can they hesitate to come to the rescue ? Will they not feel themselves called upon, not alone by humanity, by patriotism, but by the very letter of the constitution itself, to come to the rescue ?

* Has already abolished it, or seems likely to, while these sheets are passing through the press.- ED.

It is not to be supposed that such a feeling can become predominant in Congress, without penetrating also, to a greater or less extent, into the slave states themselves. But the evil of slavery is so immense, and in most of our slave states it has become so firmly rooted, — swallowing up, as it were, the state and the church, and enlisting in its support the wealth, the talent, the intelligence, the education, the ignorance, the prejudices, and the passions of the people, - that to wait for those states to take the leadership in the abolition movement, would be absurd. The effects of such waiting have been long since manifest. The abolition of slavery in Maryland and Virginia, so confidently expected and so devoutly wished for by Henry, Washington, Jefferson, Mason, Madison, has not taken place. The slave-holders of those states have, on the contrary, added to the injustice of slave-holding, the cruelty and turpitude of slave-breeding and slave-exporting; and in diffusing this evil over the new regions of the southwest, they have found new inducements for continuing it among themNO. III.


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