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doubt cast on the pretended victory of the cause of freedom by such utterances seemed still more grave when men's minds went back to the history of the time from 1774 to 1776. Then the delegates from all the colonies had been for putting an end at once and forever to the slave-trade. Now Virginia was reproached with opposing unlimited. importation only through motives of "interest” and South Carolina was aware only of religions and political prejudices" of the eastern states against slavery.
Yet men's minds needed not to go back so far in order to find reasons for thinking that the public judgment on slavery had become more lax. The constitution contains still a third provision affecting slavery, which, strangely enough, received very little attention in the ratification. conventions of the northern states. Art. IV., sec. 2, §3 provides that persons lawfully bound in any state to “service or labor," who fled into another state, should not be released from the service or the labor by a law or "any regulation" of the latter, but should be delivered up on demand. This clause was unanimously adopted, without debate, by the convention at Philadelphia. This was a backward step of great import and disastrous consequences. The articles of confederation had contained no similar provision and it had never been pretended that the rendition of fugitive slaves was a self-evident duty. Even Charles C. Pinckney admitted that the south had gained a new right in this. If the articles of confederation had imposed no limits whatever upon the states in regard to slavery, they had also, on the other hand, imposed no duties whatever upon the Union. The new constitution did this and this is the weak point of the slavery compromise of the
Elliot, Deb., V., p. 492. Only the wording was changed in the final revision of the constitution. The clause referred, too, to apprentices and the so-called “bound servants," but it was self-evidently especially directed against fugitive slaves.
Elliot, Deb., IV., p. 286; see also p. 176
THE CONSTITUTION ON SLAVERY.
constitution. Slavery was not made a federal institution and the constitution did not contain, as was later asserted, a formal "guaranty" of the "peculiar institution," but it recognized it not only, as the articles of confederation did, by silence; there were three provisions of the greatest weight in favor of slavery contained in the fundamental law of the Union, and, without regard to the contents of these provisions, by means of them a mighty pillar of support was thrust under the rotten structure. Although the words "slave" and "slavery" were not used in them, yet this was not only a matter of no value, but made the thing still worse. Never have men tried by such a pitiable trick to lie to themselves and the world about facts which could no more be lied away than the sun from the firmament. But the worst of it was that these circumlocutions were used on the demand, not of the south, but of the north. The plantation-owners had already become such complete slavocrats that their ears were no longer offended by the word which carries in its sound its condemnation; and the north, which was henceforth to bear the banner of freedom alone, had already become such a moral coward that it tried to escape, by shunning the word, the responsibility for the legal recognition of the thing.
Some of the most determined opponents of slavery af terwards sought, strange to say, a just basis for their strug
In Prigg vs. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, however, the supreme court of the United States declared: "Historically, it is well known that the object of this clause was to secure to the citizens of the slaveholding states the complete right and title of ownership in their slaves, as property, in every state in the Union into which they might escape from the state where they were held in servitude. The full recog nition [!] of this right and title was indispensable to the security of this species of property in all the slaveholding states, and, indeed, was so vital to the preservation of their domestic interests and institutions that it cannot be doubted that it constituted a fundamental article without the adoption of which the Union could not have been formed." Rep., XVI., p. 611; Curtis, XIV., pp. 420, 421.
2 Elliot, Deb., II., pp. 451, 452; IV., pp. 102, 176; V., p. 477.
gle against it in the fact that the constitution recognizes no "slaves" but only "persons." This would make a good theme for very logical dissertations, but the dissertations cannot destroy the strong band of the logic of facts, by which the south tugged the north, step by step, farther along its path. It has already been related in another chapter, with what arrogance the south seized the first opportunity to do so. It could be answered, but it could not be silenced. Fig-trees do not grow from thistles in America. any more than elsewhere. The principle had been bargained away for the sake of the Union, and hence every new demand dictated to the slavocracy by the impulse of self-preservation presented to the north the alternative of yielding and therewith taking a farther step away from the 1 right principle or of endangering the Union. This was the result which the relentless logic of historic justice, that is, of the moral order of the world, involved. Taxes could be laid without tearing the Union asunder, only as long as in the south the interests bound up in the Union outweighed the slavocratic interests. The longer men shrank back from the test, so much the more dictatorially did the south necessarily speak, so much the more did it necessarily demand, so much the more was necessarily conceded to it, so much the more did the distinct slavocratic interest necessarily outgrow the interests connected with the Union.
An earnest struggle of the southern states against slavery on their own initiative was impossible as long as they thought that not only their industrial well-being, but their very industrial existence, depended upon it. But this conviction already existed, at least in South Carolina and Georgia.1
In the debates of the legislature of South Carolina over the constitution, Lowndes said: "Without negroes, this state would degenerate into one of the most contemptible in the Union," and Charles C. Pinckney: “I am as thoroughly convinced as that gentleman is, that the nature of our climate and the flat, swampy situation of our country oblige
If it remained confined to these states and grew weaker elsewhere, then human rights and the blessings of free labor would necessarily and steadily gain ground. If it struck deeper root and spread wider, then human rights, free labor and all freedom, political, religious and moral, would perforce ever bow lower under the yoke of the slavocracy, as long as men would neither sacrifice the Union nor venture to fight for the Union. The preservation of the status quo was impossible.
THE SLAVERY DILEMMA.
us to cultivate our lands with negroes, and that without them South Carolina would soon be a desert waste. We .. assigned reasons for our insisting on the importation, which there is no occasion to repeat, as they must occur to every gentleman in the house." Elliot, Deb., IV., pp. 272, 285. The debates of the Georgia convention are not preserved, but the votes of the Georgia delegates at Philadelphia and the way in which they let the South Carolina delegates speak for them fully justify the assertion made in the text. In May, 1789, the first skir mish in congress on the slavery question took place. The provocation thereto was the motion by Parker of Virginia to lay a tax of $10 per head upon slaves imported. Jackson of Georgia said on this occasion: "They [gentlemen] do not wish to charge us for every comfort and enjoyment of life and at the same time take away the means of procuring them; they do not wish to break us down at once." Deb. of Congress, I., p. 73. Georgia was for a long time the only state which permitted the importation of slaves. South Carolina did not repeal her prohibition, which had existed since the time of the Philadelphia convention, nntil 1803. Georgia had then again forbidden it and by a clause in the constitution of 1798. Opinions of the Attorneys General, I., p. 449.
HISTORY OF THE SLAVERY QUESTION FROM 1789 UNTIL THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE.
Washington had written as early as 1786 to Lafayette that he "despaired" of seeing the spirit of freedom gain the upper hand. Politicians and people, however, continued to be convinced of the contrary, although under the new constitution proofs of the justice of Washington's view rapidly accumulated. A most notable symptom of this was that no one was conscious how quickly the nation was striding forward on the wrong path. The constant Ispeaking and writing about freedom during the revolution bore evil fruits. The gulf between abstract political reasoning and the actual development of freedom had become perilously broad. Not only was the faculty of political judgment hurt, but the political will of the nation had suffered. Men became impatient and unjust because they had talked themselves into believing the flattering illusion that in the struggle against the injustice of others, one starts from the absolute principle of justice. The speediest courser on the road to despotism is a principle ridden without reins. If men had given themselves up to gross illusions, at first, in regard to the readiness with which real interests would be sacrificed at the altar of principle, they now ruthlessly rejected the principle for the sake of empty prejudices. Their position on the slavery question might have been more or less excused by sad political necessity. But for the shameful treatment of the free men of color, not even this dubious justification can be brought forward
Wash., Writ., IX., p. 163.