Puslapio vaizdai

he was a slaveholder in 1787, and continued so during the remainder of his life. But he who is well acquainted with the political history of the country from the peace of 1783 to the ratification of the present Constitution, especially when he remembers that knowledge, and reflection, and feeling in regard to Slavery were almost immeasurably lower than they now are, - will be prepared to make no small allowance for this deviation, and almost to say, with Washington, "the consolidation of our union was the greatest interest of every true American." Under the Articles of Confederation, Congressthe Legislature of the Union-consisted of but a single House. Its "delegates" were appointed by the different state legislatures. In making treaties, declaring war, making peace, receiving and sending ambassadors, borrowing money, &c., it represented the whole country. But then it could not collect the moneys it necessarily expended or promised, except with the consent of the several states, and through the officers appointed by them. The sums loaned to us by foreign governments were loaned to Congress. The public debt, at the conclusion of the war, was about forty millions of dollars. From Nov. 1st, 1784, to Jan. 1st, 1786, fourteen monthsthere was not half a million of dollars paid into the treasury of the United States; a sum so altogether insufficient to meet the current expenses of the country, and the interest of the debt, saying nothing of discharging any of the principal, that foreign nations began to decline making treaties with us, fearing, from the inefficiency of our government, we should not be able to comply with the terms of them. The inconvenience that had been felt during the war from this uncertainty of raising funds, occasioned an application by Congress for power to levy an impost of five per cent. on imported and prize goods. Mr. Fitzsimmons and Mr. Rutledge, two gentlemen of great intelligence, constituted the committee to whom this matter was referred. Their report in favor of it, after a tedious and embarrassing debate, was adopted on the 18th of April, 1783. Mr. Madison, Col. Hamilton, and Oliver Ellsworth, afterwards Chief-Justice Ellsworth, were appointed to prepare an address to accompany the recommendation to the several states. In this address is the memorable sentiment so often quoted:"Let it be remembered, finally, that it has ever been the pride and the boast of America, that the rights for which she contended were THE RIGHTS OF HUMAN NATURE." They go on to say, that never had the "unadulterated forms

[ocr errors]

so fair an opportunity

of a republican government of justifying themselves." "If justice, good faith, honor, gratitude, and all the other qualities that ennoble the character of a nation, and fulfil the ends of government, be the fruits of our establishments, the cause of liberty will acquire a dignity and lustre which it has never yet enjoyed, and the example will be set which cannot but have the most favorable influence on the rights of mankind. If on the other side, our government should be unfortunately blotted with the reverse of these cardinal and essential virtues, the great cause which we have engaged to vindicate will be dishonored and betrayed; the last and fairest experiment in favor of the rights of human nature will be turned against them, and their patrons and friends exposed to be insulted and silenced by the votaries of tyranny and usurpation."

In June, 1783, Washington, in view of soon laying down his public command, addressed the governors of the several states. He warmly recommended the same measures that had been recommended by the last named committee. He considered as essential to the well being, if not to the exist ence of the United States as an independent power-1. An indissoluble union of the states under one federal head. 2. A sacred regard to public justice. 3. The adoption of a proper peace establishment, and 4. The prevalence of a pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States. The opinions expressed by Washington were not hastily formed, for we find him frequently expressing them again. As late as 1786, in replying to a letter of William Jay, afterwards appointed the first Chief-Justice, he said, "I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation without lodging somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union in as energetic a manner as the authority of the state extends over the several states." Similar opinions were expressed by his correspondents, embracing a large number of the ablest and most considerate men in the country.

The party, for it now may be called such, headed by those three persons and others who thought as they did, had to encounter the opposition of another party, which, if it did not equal their opponents in intelligence and ability, was yet formidable for its numbers. "Viewing," says Chief-Justice Marshall, from whose Life of Washington these facts are, for the most part, obtained, "Viewing with extreme tenderness the case of the debtor, their efforts were unceasingly directed

[ocr errors]

to his relief. To exact a faithful compliance with contracts was, in their opinion, a measure too harsh to be insisted on, and was one which the people would not bear. They were uniformly in favor of relaxing the administration of justice, affording facilities for the payment of debts, or of suspending their collection and of remitting taxes. The same course of opinion led them to resist every attempt to transfer from their own hands into those of Congress, powers which by others were deemed essential to the preservation of the Union." In many of the States this party constituted a majority — in all of them it had great influence. The contest between these two parties was every now and then revived, whilst their alternate success kept the public mind perpetually agitated with hopes and fears on matters of prime importance.

Such had been for a long time, and such was the political condition of affairs, though many things had conspired to give success to the first mentioned party, when the delegates to the Convention met at Philadelphia. But it may be asked, if the restoration and support of public credit was the leading idea the pressing notion-in the general mind, why did not the conventionists limit their amendments of the Articles of Confederation to that? It may be replied, that, supposing the restoration and support of public credit to be as important as it is represented, it was probably much discussed, and the necessity of it pretty clearly seen, before the meeting at Philadelphia; that other defects in the Articles, if not so prominent, were not unseen; that the conventionists had full power, not only to remedy all the defects of the federal system, but to make a government for the country, that its laws might be effective throughout its whole extent, (for any form that they adopted was not to go into practice till submitted to the people in their State Conventions, and sanctioned by them ;) and further, that opposition to the main measure might be much weakened by discussion on the other, wise and desirable provisions of the Constitution; or, indeed, that approbation of them might gain over, or soften the opposition to what was thought the most important one.

But Senator Clayton gives to the "compromises of the Constitution" —we use the word compromises here because it is more in fashion and better understood than any other word— a far more extensive interpretation than we remember before to have seen. As the Constitution was a compromise, so he comes to the conclusion, not a very logical one, some

[ocr errors]

will think, that "the same feeling which governed in its formation is and ever will be indispensable to its preservation." If this be true, the free states are called on for compromises coeval with the duration of Slavery, and apart from the Constitution. Washington appears not so to have considered it. He thought that the Constitution was the consequence of certain dispositions shown by the members of the convention to one another" the result" of these dispositions, terminating with its formation. Besides, these "neverending compromises" were not submitted to the people for their ratification or rejection. Nothing but the Constitution, in which all that led to it, all the compromises, or whatever else they may be called, were supposed to be merged and embodied, nothing but the Constitution, as containing the substance of their political relations to individuals or communities, they were to ratify or reject.

But we would ask Mr. Clayton what compromise demanded by the Constitution has not been fulfilled by the states of the North? Have they not quietly submitted to the decennial enumeration which counts five slaves as three free persons, thus increasing the congressional representation of a state in proportion as man has been reduced to bonds within her borders? Have they not patiently submitted to the relinquishment of a part, an important part, of their sovereignty, which requires them to protect ALL who owe them allegiance, as do ALL within their limits, whether they have escaped from unpaid labor or not; to the search of their land, in its length and breadth, by the slaveholder, panoplied in his own slave state constitution, while he hunts for his enslaved brother, seeking his safety in his obscurity; to the merciless scourgings, the inhuman hangings of their citizens, without law or trial; to the expulsion of an agent humanely sent by one of them, to attend to the interests of the most injured class of her citizens, to his expulsion from the state by a Charleston mob, upheld and encouraged by a legislative act; to the expulsion of another agent, deputed to Louisiana on a similar laudable business? And does the Senator know so little about Slavery as not to be aware that, as its victims increase, and as, in seeking long lost rights, they are supposed to become formidable, that new modes of barbarity and cruelty are invented and practised for their repression and subjugation? And does he suppose that the "compromises" of the North keep pace with the multiplication of the slaves, or with the perpetuation of un

heard-of cruelties? Does he imagine that the North, after seeing what Slavery can do, will so stultify itself as to make of San Francisco another New Orleans, and of Monterey another Charleston? And does he once think that he could now get from the people of the North "the compromises" that were thought indispensable sixty years ago, for forming a "more perfect union"? If he has so read the temper of the people of the North; if he has so read the Constitution as to suppose that compromises are enjoined, which rise with the slaveholder's fears and necessities, be they real or imaginary, he has wonderfully misread. Or, if he fancies that his argument can "settle the controversy," or quench the spirit of a people who forbid their own officers from contaminating their hands by giving any aid in arresting a fugitive slave, yet scrupulously respect what they deem their constitutional obligations, we can tell him that an emptier fancy never found entrance into a wise head.

Before we are done with Senator Clayton's speech, we wish to examine another of its positions. It will be best presented in his own words:

"The whole of these charges against the bill, as being evasive and shunning responsibility, arise out of, and are resolved into, one single misrepresentation, which I will proceed to expose and put to shame. The misrepresentation consists in this simple declaration—that the bill delegates and refers the power of Congress to decide the question whether slavery shall exist in the territories to the Supreme Court of the United States. Now the bill delegates no power of Congress whatever. It simply provides that a writ of error or appeal shall be had, at the suit of either party, in case of a claim of freedom by any negro, in either California or New Mexico, to the Supreme Court. Every power which Congress ever had over the subject is reserved, because no word in the bill proposes to devolve that power on the court or any other tribunal. The power of Congress is political and legislative; that of the Court is simply judicial. The great question, to settle which the select committee was raised in the Senate, was whether the citizens of slave-holding states of this Union have a constitutional right to emigrate to the territories which have been acquired by the common efforts of all the states, with their slaves."

After stating the form of government provided by the bill for California and New Mexico- the appointment of officers, including Judges-the restriction of the territorial legislatures as to the introduction or prohibition of African slavery, and the

[ocr errors][merged small]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »