Imagens das páginas

slave-holding States do not vote; which is very true. But the women rear and train those who are one day to exercise the right of suffrage, and the children are coming forward as the compeers or successors of those who do exercise it. Both classes are therefore directly interested in its exercise, and form a part of the constituency of the representative. They are represented, and free population is therefore a suitable basis on which to apportion a representation. Not so with the slave. He is not a part of the constituency. No age qualifies him, no property, if there be a property qualification, ever entitles him to any participation in the elective franchise. The nurture and training of those who are to exercise it, and which is to qualify them for its exercise, is not committed to him. Slaves may minister to the mere physical wants of those who do, and those who are to exercise this franchise, but they do not imbue their minds with free principles and high aspirations. They are in no way an element of a free government. The representation, then, so far as they are concerned, is the representation of the master; and it is founded upon property. It is not to be denied that property may form the basis of representation. It has been contended that as it pays the greater portion of the taxes, it furnishes a suitable and proper basis of representation, to some extent. It was so contended in the Convention to revise the Constitution of this Commonwealth in 1820. But the question returns; — viewed as property, why should three fifths of this peculiar species of property furnish a basis of representation, while all other property is entirely excluded ? The solution of this question will be found in the history of the Constitution, and that of the period which immediately preceded its formation. So far as this representation is constitutional, it has its

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

existence in the second section of the first article of the Constitution, in these words, — "Representation and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.” The reason why this should be the rule is certainly not apparent, but a short investigation will solve the mystery.

Bills of credit were first resorted to as a means for carrying on the war of the Revolution, but it soon became apparent that the credit of the bills must be sustained by means for their redemption. On the 26th December, 1775, Congress resolved that the thirteen Colonies be pledged for their redemption, " that each Colony provide ways and means to sink its proportion in such manner as will be most effectual and best adapted to the condition, circumstances, and equal mode of levying taxes in each; and that the proportion or quota of each respective Colony be determined according to the number of inhabitants of all ages, including negroes and mulattoes, in each."

The Committee which reported the articles of Confederation in July, 1776, inserted a similar provision, with an exception of Indians not paying taxes. Upon this a debate arose. Mr. Chase moved that the quotas should be fixed by the number of white inhabitants. He admitted that taxation should be always in proportion to property; that this was in theory the true rule, but that from a variety of difficulties it could never be adopted in practice. He considered the number of inhabitants a tolerably good criterion of property, and

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

that this might always be obtained, and was the best mode with one exception only. He observed that “negroes are property, and as such could not be distinguished from the lands or personalties held in those States where there are few slaves; that the surplus of profit which a northern farmer is able to lay by he invests in cattle, horses, &c., whereas a southern farmer lays out the same surplus in slaves; that there was no more reason, therefore, for taxing the Southern States on the farmer's head and on his slave's head, than the Northern ones on their farmers' heads and the heads of cattle; that the mode proposed would therefore tax the Southern States according to their numbers and their wealth conjunctly, while the Northern would be taxed on numbers only; that negroes in fact should not be considered as members of the State more than cattle, and that they have no more interest in it.” Fellow-citizens, please bear in mind that you have here, very fully stated, the slave-holding view of the relation of slaves to the State, showing, conclusively, that they are not represented, and form no part of the basis of an apportionment of representation, unless the basis adopted be property. It does not follow, however, that they are not, as property, just subjects of taxation. Mr. John Adams observed that the numbers of people were taken by the article as an index of the wealth of the State, and not as subjects of taxation; — that five hundred freemen produced no greater surplus for the payment of taxes than five hundred slaves; — therefore the State in which are the laborers called freemen should be taxed no more than that in which are those called slaves. Mr. Harrison proposed, as a compromise, that two slaves

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

should be counted as one freeman. He affirmed that slaves did not do as much work as freemen, and doubted if two effected more than one.

Mr. Wilson said that other kinds of property were pretty equally distributed through all the Colonies; there were as many cattle, horses, and sheep in the North as the South, and South as the North, but not so as to slaves; that experience has shown that those Colonies have been always able to pay most which have the most inhabitants, whether they be black or white; and the practice of the Southern Colonies has always been to make every farmer pay poll-taxes on his laborers, whether they be black or white. He acknowledged that freemen worked the most, but they consumed the most also, and did not produce a greater surplus for taxation. The slave was neither fed nor clothed so expensively as a freeman.

Dr. Witherspoon was of opinion that the value of lands and houses was the best estimate of the wealth of a nation, and that it was practicable to obtain such a valuation. He said the cases stated by Mr. Wilson were not parallel ; that in the Southern Colonies slaves pervade the whole Colony; but they do not pervade the whole continent; and that the original resolution of Congress to proportion the quotas according to souls, was temporary only, and related to the moneys before emitted; whereas they were then entering into a new compact, and stood on original ground.

The amendment of Mr. Chase was rejected, five States for, six against it, and one divided.

The rule suggested by Dr. Witherspoon was afterwards substituted for that reported by the Committee, but the final ratification of the articles did not take place until March, 1781. In the mean time, Congress apportioned various sums

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

to be raised by each State, with a proviso that the sums required should not be considered the proportion of any one State, but should be placed to their credit, and interest allowed until the quota should be finally adjusted by Congress, agreeably to the rule inserted in the articles of Confederation. This rule was found to be impracticable. In 1778 Congress required the States to make a return of the houses and lands. New Hampshire alone complied; and in 1783 Congress adopted a new article on the subject, to be proposed to the States, providing that the quotas of the several States should be supplied “in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex, and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes in each State.” Eleven States had assented to the change at the time of the formation of the Constitution, and we have here substantially the provision which was afterwards inserted in that instrument as the basis of representation, as well as of taxation. In an address to the States, recommending the adoption of this and other articles of amendment, it was said that the only material difficulty which attended the change of the rule, in the deliberation of Congress, was to fix the proper difference between the labor and industry of free inhabitants and all other inhabitants; and that the ratio ultimately agreed on was the effect of mutual concession. The concession seems to have been in rating the value of the labor of five slaves, the same as that of three freemen; not quite two to one, according to Mr. Harrison's proposition. The inquiry naturally arises, why three fifths of the slaves,

« AnteriorContinuar »