« AnteriorContinuar »
I need not say to you that, under this provision of the Constitution, taxation and representation have not gone “ hand in hand,” — no substantial equivalent having been received for the inequality of the representation. The clause, so far as respects representation, has been always active and operative, and the inequality is constantly increasing ; but as it regards taxation it has been almost a dead letter, quite so for more than a third of a century, there having been no direct taxation during that time.
Whether the basis be regarded as one founded upon population, or property, there is an inequality which is contrary to the spirit of our free institutions.
The inequality exists also in the election of President and Vice-President. At the coming election, the slave-holding States will have twenty-one electoral votes, by reason of their slave population; the Constitution providing that “each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” But for this unequal vote, Mr. Buchanan's chance would be the mere shadow of a shade.
But this inequality is not a subject of complaint, with any view to redress or change. The people of the non-slave-holding States ratified the Constitution, with these provisions as parts of it. If they made a bad compromise, it is no more than they have done in other instances. Let it stand. Let those entitled have the benefit of it; but it is proper that these matters should be brought into view, when the account of the wrongs and injustice done to the slave-holding States is audited for the purpose of ascertaining the balance. There is no design on the part of the Republican party, so far as I
am aware, to attempt an escape from the due operation of these constitutional provisions.
But the inquiry arises, What is the extent and limit of this constitutional provision authorizing a representation based upon three fifths of the slave population ? This is a question upon which I proceed to speak, and but for which I should not be here.
The question is, whether all the States now in the Union, and those which may be admitted hereafter, are entitled by this constitutional provision to a representation based upon three fifths of their slaves 2 or whether, in its legitimate operation, it is confined to States formed out of territory embraced within the limits of the United States at the time the Constitution was adopted ? If the latter, then two of the twenty-one representatives from the slave-holding States, who have their seats upon that part of the basis, are not there in pursuance of the Constitution, but upon some other foundation; and any other States which may hereafter be formed from the territory acquired or annexed since the adoption of the Constitution, will not be entitled to this unequal representation, even if they are slave States. If this be true, two electoral votes, which will probably be cast in the pending election, (one in Louisiana, derived entirely from her slave population, and one in Missouri, derived from her slave population, and a fraction of the free population too small to have given her a representative, but for the aid of the slave basis,) will be cast by reason of the unequal and wrongful representation from those States; and will be, therefore, of themselves, so far as they may affect the election, a political injustice. And if all this be so, then the Republican oppo
sition to the extension of slavery, as the most effectual way of preventing further injustice, which it may not be easy to escape if the extension is permitted, is neither sectional nor fanatical, but is founded upon the Constitution itself. .
There is something in the history of the debates upon the Constitution, which might tend to show that this provision might have been confined to those States which were in existence when the Constitution was formed, through a power to annex a condition to the admission of any new slave State by which it should be entitled to representation upon its free population alone. A provision reported by the Committee of Detail, in connection with the clause authorizing the admission of new States, in these words, “ If the admission be consented to, the new State shall be admitted on the same terms with the original States," was struck out by nine votes to two, for the reason expressed, that circumstances might arise which would render it inconvenient to admit new States on terms of equality, and that the legislature should be left free.
It is not necessary, however, that I should now rely upon that, in order to sustain my position. I am willing to concede, for the sake of the argument, that this provision respecting representation embraces all States which might lawfully be included in the Union, in pursuance of the provisions of the Constitution, as understood by the framers of it, and construed by those best qualified to determine its scope and meaning; and more than this cannot be required. It would be subversive of the first principles of law to extend the compromise respecting representation beyond the constitutional limits for the admission of States into the Union. For instance, suppose the Constitution had provided that the States mentioned in it, with Vermont and the five States to
be formed north-west of the Ohio, might be included in the Union, but that no State should be divided, and that no other State should be admitted; then the provision respecting representation would regulate the proportion of all the States which might thus be included, but could not lawfully and fairly be construed to extend farther. And if, contrary to the
supposed provision respecting the admission of States, a foreign State should be admitted into the Union by a major vote of Congress, or by treaty, or in any other way except an amendment of the Constitution, the State so ad. mitted would not be within the constitutional provision respecting representation, but must depend for her representation in the national councils upon some other authority than the Constitution.
We come, then, to the question, What States might be admitted into the Union, as formed by the Constitution, under and according to the provisions of that instrument?
Although Rhode Island refused to send delegates to the Convention, the Constitution made provision for her as if she had been represented. The original thirteen States, therefore, were entitled to membership, and the ratification of nine of them was sufficient for its establishment among the States so ratifying. The third section of the fourth article is in these words :
“ New States may be admitted by the Congress into the Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State ; nor any State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress.”
It may be said that this language is broad enough to include the admission of all the globe ; but it is quite clear that
such could not have been the intent of those who framed or of those who adopted it; and the well-settled rule of construction, applicable to organic as well as other laws, is, that in determining the meaning, the context, subject-matter, spirit, and reason of the law, are to be taken into consideration. New States may be admitted. What new States ? We understand from other parts of the Constitution, that a State, to be admitted, must have a republican form of gove ernment. Here is one qualification of the general terms not contained in the section itself. If we turn to the introductory clause or preamble of the Constitution, we find not only by whom, but for what purposes, the Constitution was framed.
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” This looks very much like another qualification. The United States then existed as a nation, with limits defined by the treaty of peace. It was not established to form a more perfect union with the inhabitants of Great Britain, or those of any other foreign State and their posterity; and if not, the provision for admission is not broad enough to embrace them. All those for whom it was framed may be included. Those for whom it was not framed are not within the clause of admission. The argument, however, does not rest on that alone. Fortunately the means for determining this question are accessible; but the inquiry may embrace a few facts in the previous history of the country. When the colonial charters were granted, the knowledge of the geography of this country was very limited, and perhaps there were other reasons for the extent of some