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deavors to enslave us. They know that, on the record of history, their conduct towards us must appear in the most disgraceful light. Let it also appear, on the record of history, that America was equally wise and fortunate in peace as well as in war. Let it be said that, with a temper and unanimity unexampled, they corrected the vices of an imperfect govemment, and framed a new one on the basis of justice and liberty; that, though all did not concur in approving the particular structure of this government, yet that the minority peaceably and respectfully submitted to the decision of the greater number. This is a spectacle so great, that, if it should succeed, this must be considered the greatest country under heaven; for there is no instance of any such deliberate change of government in any other nation that ever existed. But how would it gratify the pride of our enemy to say, “We could not conquer you, but you have ruined yourselves. You have foolishly quarrelled about trifles. You are unfit for any government whatever. You have separated from us, when you were unable to govern yourselves, and you now deservedly feel all the horrors of anarchy.” I beg pardon for saying so much. I did not intend it when I began. But the consideration of one of the most important parts of the plan excited all my feelings on the subject. I speak without any affectation in expressing my apprehension of foreign dangers: the belief of them is strongly impressed on my mind. I hope, therefore, the gentlemen of the committee will excuse the warmth with which I have spoken. I shall now take leave of the subject. I flatter myself that gentlemen will see that this power is absolutely necessary, and must be vested somewhere; that it can be vested nowhere so well as in the general government; and that it is guarded by the only restriction which the nature of the thing will admit of.
Mr. HARDIMAN desired to know, if the people were attacked or harassed in any part of the state, — if on the frontiers, for instance, — whether they must not apply to the state legislature for assistance.
Mr. IREDELL replied, that he admitted that application might be immediately made to the state legislature, and that, by the plan under consideration, the strength of the Union was to be exerted to repel invasions of foreign enemies and suppress domestic insurrections; and that the possibility of
an instantaneous and unexpected attack, in time of profound peace, illustrated the danger of restricting the power of raising
and supporting armies.
. 1st clause of the 9th section read.
Mr. J. M’DOWALL wished to hear the reasons of this restriction.
Mr. SPAIGHT answered, that there was a contest between the Northern and Southern States; that the Southern · States, whose principal support depended on the labor of slaves, would not consent to the desire of the Northern States to exclude the importation of slaves absolutely; that South Carolina and Georgia insisted on this clause, as they were now in want of hands to cultivate their lands; that in the course of twenty years they would be fully supplied ; that the trade would be abolished then, and that, in the mean time, some tax or duty might be laid on.
Mr. M’DOWALL replied, that the explanation was just such as he expected, and by no means satisfactory to him, and that he looked upon it as a very objectionable part of the system.
Mr. IREDELL. Mr. Chairman, I rise to express sentiments similar to those of the gentleman from Craven. For my part, were it practicable to put an end to the importation of slaves immediately, it would give me the greatest pleasure; for it certainly is a trade utterly inconsistent with the rights of humanity, and under which great cruelties have been exercised. When the entire abolition of slavery takes place, it will be an event which must be pleasing to every generous mind, and every friend of human nature; but we often wish for things which are not attainable. It was the wish of a great majority of the Convention to put an end to the trade immediately ; but the states of South Carolina and Georgia would not agree to it. Consider, then, what would be the difference between our present situation in this respect, if we do not agree to the Constitution, and what it will be if we do agree to it. If we do not agree to it, do we remedy the evil? No, sir, we do not. For if the Constitution be not adopted, it will be in the power of every state to continue it forever. They may or may not abolish it, at their discretion. But if we adopt the Constitution, the trade must cease after twenty years, if Con
gress declare so, whether particular states please so or not; surely, then, we can gain by it. This was the utmost that could be obtained. I heartily wish more could have been done. But as it is, this government is nobly distinguished above others by that very provision. Where is there another country in which such a restriction prevails? We, therefore, sir
, set an example of humanity, by providing for the abolition of this inhuman traffic, though at a distant period. I hope, therefore, that this part of the Constitution will not be, condemned because it has not stipulated for what was impracticable to obtain.
Mr. SPAIGHT further explained the clause. That the limitation of this trade to the term of twenty years was à compromise between the Eastern States and the Southern States. South Carolina and Georgia wished to extend the term. The Eastern States insisted on the entire abolition of the trade. That the state of North Carolina had not thought proper to pass any law prohibiting the importation of slaves, and therefore its delegation in the Convention did not think themselves authorized to contend for an immediate prohibition of it.
Mr. IREDELL added to what he had said before, that the states of Georgia and South Carolina had lost a great many slaves during the war, and that they wished to supply the loss.
Mr. GALLOWAY. Mr. Chairman, the explanation given to this clause does not satisfy my mind. I wish to see this abominable trade put an end to.
But in case it be thought proper to continue this abominable traffic for twenty years, yet I do not wish to see the tax on the importation extended to all persons whatsoever. Our situation is different from the people to the north. We want citizens; they do not. Instead of laying a tax, we ought to give a bounty to encourage foreigners to come among us.
With respect to the abolition of slavery, it requires the utmost consideration. The property of the Southern States consists principally of slaves. If they mean to do away slavery altogether, this property will be destroyed. I apprehend it means to bring forward manumission. If we must manumit our slaves, what country shall we send them to? It is impossible for us to be happy, if, after manumission, thev are to stay among us.
Mr. IREDFLL. Mr. Chairman, the worthy gentleman, I believe, has misunderstood this clause, which runs in the following words: “ The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to
year 1808; but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.” Now, sir, observe that the Eastern States, who long ago have abolished slaves, did not approve of the expression slaves ; they therefore used another, that answered the same purpose. The committee will observe the distinction between the two words migration and importation. The first part of the clause will extend to persons who come into this country as free people, or are brought as slaves. But the last part extends to slaves only. The word migration refers to free persons; but the word importation refers to slaves, because free people cannot be said to be imported. The tax, therefore, is only to be laid on slaves who are imported, and not on free persons who migrate. I further beg leave to say that the gentleman is mistaken in another thing. He seems to say that this extends to the abolition of slavery. Is there any thing in this Constitution which says that Congress shall have it in their power to abolish the slavery of those slaves who are now in the country? Is it not the plain meaning of it, that after twenty years they may prevent the future importation of slaves ? It does not extend to those now in the country. There is another circumstance to be observed. There is no authority vested in Congress to restrain the states, in the interval of twenty years, from doing what they please. If they wish to prohibit such importation, they may
Our next Assembly may put an entire end to the importation of slaves.
The rest of the 9th section read without any observation. Article 2d, section 1st.
Mr. DAVIE. Mr. Chairman, I must express my astonishment at the precipitancy with which we go through this business. Is it not highly improper to pass over in silence any part of this Constitution which has been loudly objected We
go into a committee to have a freer discussion. I am sorry to see gentlemen hurrying us through, and suppressing their objections, in order to bring them forward at an unseasonable hour. We are assembled here to deliberate
for our own common welfare, and to decide upon a question of infinite importance to our country. What is the cause of this silence and gloomy jealousy in gentlemen of the opposition ? This department has been universally objected to by them. The most virulent invectives, the most opprobrious epithets, and the most indecent scurrility, have been used and applied against this part of the Constitution. It has been represented as incompatible with any degree of freedom. Why, therefore, do not gentlemen offer their objections now, that we may examine their force, if they have any? The clause meets my entire approbation. I only rise to show the principle on which it was formed. The principle is, the separation of the executive from the legislative — a principle which pervades all free governments. A dispute arose in the Convention concerning the reëligibility of the President. It was the opinion of the deputation from this state, that he should be elected for five or seven years, and be afterwards ineligible. It was urged, in support of this opinion, that the return of public officers into the common mass of the people, where they would feel the tone they had given to the administration of the laws, was the best security the public had for their good behavior; that it would operate as a limitation to his ambition, at the same time that it rendered him more independent; that when once in possession of that office, he would move heaven and earth to secure his reëlection, and perhaps become the cringing dependant of influential men; that our opinion was supported by some experience of the effects of this principle in several of the states. A large and very respectable majority were of the contrary opinion. It was said that such an exclusion would be improper for many reasons; that if an enlightened, upright man had discharged the duties of the office ably and faithfully, it would be depriving the people of the benefit of his ability and experience, though they highly approved of him; that it would render the President less ardent in his endeavors to acquire the esteem and approbation of his country, if he knew that he would be absolutely excluded after a given period; and that it would be depriving a man of singular merit even of the rights of citi zenship. It was also said, that the day might come, when the confidence of America would be put in one man, and that it might be dangerous to exclude such a man from the