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for National Independence was but lately finished, and had left behind it friendly feelings, which had made them willing to make sacrifices for the sake of union and cordiality. The Northern States were not without a corresponding feeling. But the manner of showing it in the two sections was different. The Southerners made sacrifices for the sake of union, at their own expense ; the Northerners made theirs at the expense of the negro.
One of the representatives of South Carolina, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, proposed in the Convention that no alteration should be made on the duties levied on imports without the consent of twothirds of the members of Congress. The proposal was opposed by one of his own colleagues, on the express ground that it indicated a want of confidence in their Northern brethren, who had shown a desire to conciliate them, and ought to have some return made for their kindness. It was true that the Northern kindness was cheap. I think this will appear on the examination of what it consisted of.
One concession which it was proposed to make, and which was supposed to deserve a great deal by way of return, consisted of an offer to assist the Southerners by force to put the negroes down, in case of any rising on the part of the latter. The Southern members replied to this, that they were . much obliged, but they did not want any assistance : they were quite able to defend themselves in case the negroes revolted, but they had not the remotest fear of their wanting to do so. Events have shown that the judgment of the South is more reliable than the honesty of the North.
However, it must be said that the Northerners professed to have made other concessions to the South. They consented to pass what is called the Fugitive Slave Law. I do not know whether any peculiar disgrace attaches to them for doing so. But if there does, it may be palliated by the fact that it was supported by the weight of the great name of Washington ; and that Washington's influence was enormous in the Convention was not, I think, a matter of blame to that body. Washington was a slave-owner himself, though I can hardly suppose that he allowed that fact to have much weight with him: albeit I cannot altogether regard him as a stainless hero, he was above any taint of selfishness; and, as I said, he was strongly in favour of this measure. But the Convention had a better excuse for this law than could be supplied by the cloak of any name however splendid. For the feeling about slavery, which exists so strongly at the present day, was hardly known at that time. The American Declaration of Independence, in stating that all men
are born equal, did not mean that general statement to apply to slaves, any more than Pericles or Licinius Stolo would have done, if they had asserted the same thing. It may be rather disgusting to think so, but I am afraid it is true. What the French lady said of her footman when she was asked why she allowed him to bring her chocolate to her when she was en déshabille, “ Appelles-tu ça un homme ?” expresses the feeling which then existed, not indeed universally, but very generally, in the minds of the whites towards the blacks ; and it existed much more strongly in the North than in the South.
This is, however, rather beside the question. It is hardly worth while discussing the justifiableness of a concession made by North to South, for it was not a real concession at all. So far from that, though the actual proposer was a Southerner, his motion was founded on a petition from the Northern State of Pennsylvania, some of whose citizens complained of having personally suffered from the want of it. At the time of the Convention, slavery was not the distinguishing mark between North and South, for the Northern States had slaves just as much as their Southern neighbours had. There was one exception, and only one. Massachusetts had no slaves. That canny State had come to the perfectly correct conclusion that in her climate slave labour was
unprofitable, and that her negroes were an inconvenience. So she had got rid of the “peculiar institution” by converting them from slaves into .... freemen? No; into cash—for she sold them to whoever cared to buy, and thus reaped the double advantage of ridding herself of an encumbrance, and realising a pretty handsome profit in the process of doing so. I do not know whether she considered that she attained any moral elevation thereby : probably not, not because she had any objection to glory in the contemplation of her own virtue, but because it would not occur to her to think whether the negroes could have any rights at all. Of one thing I am certain, and that is, that if New England had considered that slavery could by any possibility be made to pay, she would never have given it up. That cluster of States presented, and still presents, the hardest and most merciless specimens of humanity that probably the world has ever witnessed. Liberty and Protestantism have never worn so unamiable and forbidding an aspect as among the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers.
It would hardly have been necessary to explain so fully why the Fugitive Slave Law was not a concession on the part of the North towards the South, but that it has been the fashion so to represent it. I believe that there are some people in England who
are under the impression that it was proposed within the last few years, by Mr Mason of the “Trent" outrage, and that it was carried through by the enormous preponderance of Southern votes in Congress ; so it is not useless to mention that it was passed in the Convention which framed the Constitution of 1788—that it was founded on a petition from the State of Pennsylvania—that it was approved by Washington—and that it was passed without a single dissentient voice.
However, though the Fugitive Slave Law cannot be considered in the light of a real concession from North to South, yet there was another provision of the Constitution to which that name can be justly applied. It was this. Of the two Houses of Congress, the Senate was to represent the States, and the members were to be returned accordingly, small or large having equal weight. But the House of Representatives was to be returned according to population, each member to represent so many voters. In both Houses the returns were made by the States, for the notion of electoral districts did not enter into the heads of the framers of the Constitution ; nor, indeed, is it likely that the State legislatures, to whom it was submitted for ratification, would have adopted it. But while, in the Upper House of Congress, Rhode Island had as much power as Massa