Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

in the rule of representation more than the cattle and horses of the North?—Nine States voted in favor of it; New Jersey and Delaware in the negative. The subject was debated at length afterwards, when the representation in the Senate;— when the proportion of the representation in the first Congress under the Constitution;– and when the periodical census were, at different times, under consideration. Gen. Pinckney dwelt on the superior wealth of the Southern States, and insisted on its having its due weight in the government. Mr. Gouverneur Morris said property ought to have its weight, but not all the weight. If the Southern States were to supply money, the Northern States were to spill their blood. Besides, the probable revenue to be expected from the Southern States had been greatly overrated. Delegates from South Carolina insisted that blacks be included in the representation equally with the whites, and moved that three fifths be struck out. It was answered that when the rule of taxation was fixed by Congress, delegates representing slave States urged that the blacks were still more inferior to freemen. To which it was replied that the Eastern States then contended for their equality. Mr King thought the admission of the blacks along with the whites at all, would excite great discontent among the States having no slaves, Mr. Wilson did not well see on what principle the admission of blacks in the proportion of three fifths could be explained. If admitted as citizens, why not on an equality with white citizens? If as property, why is not other property admitted 2 These were difficulties, however, which he thought must be overruled by the necessity of compromise. A special Committee made a report of an apportionment, with a clause authorizing the legislature to regulate future apportionments according to the principle of wealth and numbers; and to this Gouverneur Morris moved a proviso, that taxation should be in proportion to representation. This was amended so as to read direct taxation. The debate was then continued upon the representation. Mr. Davie saw, that it was meant by some gentlemen to deprive the Southern States of any share of representation for their blacks, He was sure North Carolina would not confederate on any terms that did not rate them at least as three fifths. Dr. Johnson was for including blacks equally with the whites in the computation. Gouverneur Morris believed Pennsylvania would never agree upon a representation of negroes. Mr. Pinckney moved an amendment so as to make blacks equal to whites in the ratio. He said they were as productive of pecuniary resources as the laborers of the Northern States: and it would be politic with regard to the Northern States, as tacation is to keep pace with representation. The taxation clause was then incorporated into the clause respecting representation. Mr. Pinckney's motion for equality was rejected, two to eight, and the whole proposition adopted, six to two, Massachusetts and South Carolina divided. The debate was continued upon the proposition for an equality of votes in the Senate. Mr. Madison said: “It seemed to be now pretty well understood that the real difference of interests lay not between the large and the small, but between the Northern and Southern States. The institution of slavery and its consequences formed the line of discrimination.” The Committee of Detail having reported a draft of the proposed Constitution, with a provision that no duties should be laid on exports, nor on the migration or importation of

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

such persons as the several States might think proper to
admit, nor prohibit such importations; the opposition to the
slave representation was renewed. When the clause respect-
ing representation was considered, Mr. King said he never
could agree to let slaves be imported without limitation, and
then be represented in the national legislature. Either slaves
should not be represented, or exports should be taxable. Mr.
Gouverneur Morris moved to insert the word “free” before
the word “inhabitants.” Much, he said, would depend on
this point. He denounced slavery as a nefarious institution,
and the slave-trade as a defiance of the most sacred laws of
humanity; and he inquired, “What is the proposed compen-
sation to the Northern States for a sacrifice of every principle
of right, every impulse of humanity?” “Let it not be said,”
he remarked, “that direct taxation is to be proportioned to
representation. It is idle to suppose that the General Gov-
ernment can stretch its hand directly into the pockets of the
people scattered over so vast a country. They can only do
it through the medium of exports, imports, and excises.”
Mr. Dayton seconded the motion.
Mr. Sherman “did not regard the admission of negroes as
liable to such insuperable objection. It was the freemen of
the Southern States who were to be represented, according to
the laces paid by them, and the negroes are only included in
the estimate of the taces.”
Mr. Wilson thought the motion premature. An agree-
ment to the clause under consideration would be no bar to
the object of it; and it was rejected, New Jersey alone voting
for it.
Subsequently, Mr. Dickinson moved to limit the number
of representatives to be allowed to the large States. Unless
this were done, the small States would be reduced to entire

insignificance, and encouragement given to the importation of slaves. And when the clause of the draft providing that no duties should be laid on the importation of slaves, nor the importation prohibited, came up, the increase of the inequality in the representation by means of the slave-trade, if the three fifths clause was allowed, was not overlooked. Mr. Luther Martin (of Maryland) proposed to allow a prohibition or tax on the importation of slaves. “In the first place,” he said, “as five slaves are to be counted as three freemen in the apportionment of representation, such a clause would leave an encouragement to this traffic. In the second place, slaves weakened one part of the Union, which the other parts were bound to protect; the privilege of importing them was therefore unreasonable. And in the third place, it was inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution, and dishonorable to the American character, to have such a feature in the Constitution.” Delegates from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia insisted, that those States would never agree to the plan unless their right to import slaves was untouched. Some of them intimated that if they were let alone, they would probably of themselves stop importations. Mr. Rutledge said, if the Northern States consult their interest, they will not oppose the increase of slaves, which will increase the commodities of which they will become carriers. The subject was referred to a committee, which reported a clause restraining any prohibition of migration or importation prior to 1800, and that a tax or duty might be imposed upon such migration or importation, at a rate not exceeding the average of the duties laid on imports. Upon motion of General Pinckney, opposed by Mr. Madison, the first part of the report was amended so as to extend the term to 1808; and the second part of it was then amended so that the tax or duty should not exceed ten dollars. Mr. Sherman was against this second part, as acknowledging men to be property, by taxing them as such under the character of slaves. Mr. King and Mr. Langdon considered this as the price of the first part, and General Pinckney admitted that it was so. Virginia was decidedly in favor of an immediate restriction. I have thus presented an extended, and yet very limited, sketch of the debates and proceedings, that you may see how the slave-holding States relieved themselves, in the Congress of the Confederation, from taxation, (or what was in the nature of taxation,) on account of their slaves, by transferring the basis from population to that of real estate; and how, when the latter basis failed, by reason of a neglect to make returns, and there was a report of a committee in favor substantially of the former basis, – by proposing that two slaves should be counted as one freeman, and alleging that the labor of slaves was not of as much value as that of freemen by about that ratio, they succeeded in reducing the slave portion of the basis of taxation to three fifths, by a compromise;— how, in the Convention which formed the Constitution, by insisting that there should be a representation on account of slaves, because wealth or property was a proper subject of representation, and alleging that the labor of a slave was of the value or nearly the value of that of a feeman, they succeeded in obtaining a representation on three fifths of their slaves, by another compromise, upon which, direct taxation and representation were to go together, the taxation being the equivalent or consideration, mainly, which was to satisfy the non-slave-holding States for the inequality; and how, afterwards, by insisting on an unre

« AnteriorContinuar »