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In his hours of meditation he saw the movement of the divine power which gives unity to the universe, and order and connection to events: “It is impracticable for any one who has not been on the spot to realize the change in men's minds, and the progress toward rectitude in thinking and acting.
“The plot thickens fast. A few short weeks will determine the political fate of America for the present generation, and probably produce no small influence on the happiness of society through a long succession of ages to come. Should everything proceed with harmony and consent according to our actual wishes and expectations, it will be so much beyond anything we had a right to imagine or expect eighteen months ago that it will, as visibly as any possible event in the course of human affairs, demonstrate the finger of Providence.” *
In South Carolina the new constitution awakened fears of oppressive navigation acts and of disturbance in the ownership of slaves. The inhabitants of the upper country, who suffered from the undue legislative power of the city of Charleston and the lower counties, foreboded new inequalities from a consolidation of the union. A part of the low country, still suffering from the war, had shared the rage for instalment laws, paper money, and payment of debts by appraised property; and to all these the new constitution made an end.
The opposition from Virginia + intrigued for a southern confederacy, while Madison, in entire unison with Washing. ton, wrote to his friends in behalf of union. They both knew that there was to be resistance to the constitution, with Rawlins Lowndes for its spokesman ; and as he could by no possibility be elected into the convention, the chief scene of the opposition could only be the legislature.#
In January 1788 the senate unanimously voted thanks to the members from their state in the federal convention for their faithfulness. On the sixteenth, in the committee of the whole house of representatives, Charles Pinckney gave a his
* Washington to the Marquis de la Fayette, 28 May 1788.
+ Jefferson to Shippen, 14 July 1788. “Mr. Henry disseminated propositions there for a southern confederacy.”
† Madison to Washington, 10 April 1788. Works, i., 384, 385. # Madison, t., 382; Elliot, iv., 274,
tory * of the formation and the character of “the federal republic;" which was to operate upon the people and not upon the states. At once Lowndes t objected that the interests of South Carolina were endangered by the clause in the constitution according to which a treaty to be made by two thirds of the senate, and a president who was not likely ever to be chosen from South Carolina or Georgia, would be the supreme law of the land. Cotesworth Pinckney condemned the reasoning as disingenuous. “Every treaty,” said John Rutledge, “is law paramount and must operate," not less under the confederation than under the constitution. I “If treaties are not superior to local laws," asked Ramsay, “who will trust them?” Lowndes proceeded, saying of the confederation : “We are now under a most excellent constitution—a blessing from heaven, that has stood the test of time, and given us liberty and independence; yet we are impatient to pull down that fabric which we raised at the expense of our blood.” # Now, Rawlins Lowndes had pertinaciously resisted the declaration of independence; and when, in 1778, South Carolina had made him her governor, had in her reverses sought British protection. He proceeded : “When this new constitution shall be adopted, the sun of the southern states will set, never to rise again. What cause is there for jealousy of our importing negroes? Why confine us to twenty years? Why limit us at all? This trade can be justified on the principles of religion and humanity. They do not like our slaves because they have none themselves, and, therefore, want to exclude us from this great advantage." |
“ Every state,” interposed Pendleton, “has prohibited the importation of negroes except Georgia and the two Carolinas.”
Lowndes continued: “Without negroes this state would degenerate into one of the most contemptible in the union. Negroes are our wealth, our only natural resource; yet our kind friends in the North are determined soon to tie up our hands and drain us of what we have."
“ Against the restrictions that might be laid on the African trade after the year 1808,” said Cotesworth Pinckney on the
* Elliot, iv., 253–263.
| Elliot, iv., 267, 268.
| Elliot, iv., 272.
seventeenth," your delegates had to contend with the religious and political prejudices of the eastern and middle states, and with the interested and inconsistent opinion of Virginia. It was alleged that slaves increase the weakness of any state which admits them; that an invading enemy could easily turn them against ourselves and the neighboring states; and that, as we are allowed a representation for them, our influence in government would be increased in proportion as we were less able to defend ourselves. • Show some period,' said the members from the eastern states, 'when it may be in our power to put a stop, if we please, to the importation of this weakness, and we will endeavor, for your convenience, to restrain the religious and political prejudices of our people on this subject.' The middle states and Virginia made us no such proposition; they were for an immediate and total prohibition. A committee of the states was appointed in order to accommodate this matter, and, after a great deal of difficulty, it was settled on the footing recited in the constitution.
"By this settlement we have secured an unlimited importation of negroes for twenty years. The general government can never emancipate them, for no such authority is granted, and it is admitted on all hands that the general government has no powers but what are expressly granted by the constitution. We have obtained a right to recover our slaves in whatever part of America they may take refuge, which is a right we had not before. In short, considering all circumstances, we have made the best terms in our power for the security of this species of property. We would have made better if we could; but, on the whole, I do not think them
“Six of the seven eastern states," continued Lowndes, “ form a majority in the house of representatives. Their interest will so predominate as to divest us of any pretensions to the title of a republic. They draw their subsistence, in a great measure, from their shipping; the regulation of our commerce throws into their hands the carrying trade under payment of whatever freightage they think proper to impose. Why should the southern states allow this without the consent of
* Elliot, iv., 277–286.
nine states ? If at any future period we should remonstrate, “mind your business' will be the style of language held out toward the southern states.” “The fears that the northern interests will prevail at all times,” said Edward Rutledge, “are ill-founded. Carry your views into futurity. Several of the northern states are already full of people; the migrations to the South are immense; in a few years we shall rise high in our representation, while other states will keep their present position.”
The argument of Lowndes rested on the idea that the southern states are weak. “We are weak," answered Cotesworth Pinckney; “ by ourselves we cannot form a union strong enough for the purpose of effectually protecting each other. Without union with the other states, South Carolina must soon fall. Is there any one among us so much a Quixote as to suppose that this state could long maintain her independence if she stood alone, or was only connected with the southern states? I scarcely believe there is. As, from the nature of our climate and the fewness of our inhabitants, we are undoubtedly weak, should we not endeavor to form a close union with the eastern states, who are strong? We certainly ought to endeavor to increase that species of strength which will render them of most service to us both in
I mean their navy. Justice to them and humanity, interest and policy, concur in prevailing upon us to submit the regulation of commerce to the general government.t
Lowndes renewed his eulogy on the old confederation. “ The men who signed it were eminent for patriotism and virtue; and their wisdom and prudence particularly appear in their care sacredly to guarantee the sovereignty of each state. The treaty of peace expressly agreed to acknowledge us free, sovereign, and independent states; but this new constitution, being sovereign over all, sweeps those privileges away.”
Cotesworth Pinckney answered: “We were independent before the treaty, which does not grant, but acknowledges our independence. We ought to date that blessing from an older charter than the treaty of peace; from a charter which our
* Elliot, iv., 272, 274, 276, 277, 288.
| Elliot, iv., 287.
babes should be taught to lisp in their cradles; which our youth should learn as a carmen necessarium, an indispensable lesson; which our young men should regard as their compact of freedom ; and which our old should repeat with ejaculations of gratitude for the bounties it is about to bestow on their posterity. I mean the declaration of independence, made in congress the 4th of July 1776. This manifesto, which for importance of matter and elegance of composition stands unrivalled, confutes the doctrine of the individual sovereignty and independence of the several states. The separate independence and individual sovereignty of the several states were never thought of by the enlightened band of patriots who framed this declaration. The several states are not even mentioned by name in any part of it; as if to impress on America that our freedom and independence arose from our union, and that without it we could neither be free nor independent. Let us, then, consider all attempts to weaken this union by maintaining that each state is separately and individually independent, as a species of political heresy which can never benefit us, but may bring on us the most serious distresses." *
Lowndes sought to rally to his side the friends of paper money, and asked triumphantly : “What harm has paper money
done?” “What harm ?" retorted Cotesworth Pinckney. “Beyond losses by depreciation, paper money has corrupted the morals of the people; has diverted them from the paths of honest industry to the ways of ruinous speculation; has destroyed both public and private credit; and has brought total ruin on numberless widows and orphans.” +
James Lincoln of Ninety-six pressed the objection that the constitution contained no bill of rights. Cotesworth Pinckney answered : “By delegating express powers, we certainly reserve to ourselves every power and right not mentioned in the constitution. Another reason weighed particularly with the members from this state. Bills of rights generally begin with declaring that all men are by nature born free. Now, we should make that declaration with a very bad grace when a large part of our property consists in men who are actually born slaves.” ť
Elliot, iv., 301, 302. | Elliot, iv., 306. 1 Elliot, iv., 315, 316.