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Mr. Pinckney. If slavery be wrong, it is justified by the example of all the world. He cited the case of Greece, Rome, and other ancient states; the sanction given by France, England, Holland, and other modern states. la all ages, one-half of mankind have been slaves. If the Southern States were let alone, they will probably of themselves stop importations. He would himself, as a citizen of South Carolina, vote for it. An attempt to take away the right, as proposed, will produce serious objections to the constitution which he wished to see adopted.
Gen. Pinckney declared it to be his firm opinion, that if himself and all his colleagues were to sign the constitution, and use their personal influence, it would be of no avail towards obtaining the assent of their constituents. South Carolina and Georgia cannot do without slaves. As to Virginia, she will gain by stopping the importations. Her slaves will rise in value, and she has more than she wants. It would be unequal to require South Carolina and Georgia to confederate on such unequal terms. He said the royal assent, before the Revolution, had never been refused to South Carolina and Virginia. He contended that the importation of slaves would be for the interest of the whole Union. The more slaves, the more produce to employ the carrying trade; the more consumption also; and the more of this, the more revenue for the common treasury. He admitted it to be reasonable that slaves should be treated like other imports, but should consider a rejection of the clause as an exclusion of South Carolina from the Union.
Mr. Baldwin had conceived national objects alone to be before the Convention, not such as, like the present, were of a local nature. Georgia was decided on this point. That State has always hitherto supposed a general government to be the pursuit of the central States, who wished to have a vortex for every thing; that her distance would preclude her from equal advantage; and that she could not prudently purchase it by yielding national powers. From this it might be understood in what light she would view an attempt to abridge one of her favorite prerogatives. If left to herself she may probably put a stop to the evil. As one ground for this conjecture, he took notice of the sect of , which was, he said, a respectable class of people, who carried ethics beyond the mere equality of men, extending their humanity to the claims of the whole animal creation.
Mr. Wilson observed that, if South Carolina and Georgia were themselves disposed to get rid of the importation of slaves in a short time, as had been suggested, they would never refuse to unite because the importation might be prohibited. As the section now stands, all articles imported are to be taxed. Slaves alone are exempt. This is, in fact, a bounty on that article.
Mr. Gerry thought we had nothing to do with the conduct of the States as to slaves, but ought to be careful not to give any sanction to it.
Mr. Dickinson considered it as indispensable, on every principle of honor and safety, that the importation of slaves should be authorized to the States by the Constitution. The true question was, whether the national happiness would be promoted or impaired by the importation— and this question ought to be left to the national government—not to the States particularly interested. If England and France permit slavery, slaves are, at the same time, excluded from both those kingdoms. Greece and Rome were made unhappy by their slaves. He could not believe that the Southern States would refuse to confederate on the account apprehended; especially as the power was not likely to be immediately exercised by the general government.
General Pinckney thought himself bound to say, that he did not think South Carolina would stop her importations of slaves in any short time; but only stop them occasionally, as she now does. He moved to commit the clause, that slaves might be made liable to an equal tax with other imports; which he thought right, and which would remove one difficulty that had been stated.
Mr. Rutledge. If the Convention thinks that North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, will ever agree to the plan, unless their right to import slaves be untouched, the expectation i» vain. The people of those States will never be such fools as to give up so important an interest. He was against striking out the section, and seconded the motion of General Pinckney for a commitment.
Mr. Gouverneur Morris wished the whole subject to be committed, including the clauses relating to taxes on exports and to a navigation act. These things may form a bargain among the Northern and Southern States.
Mr. Butler declared, that he never would agree to the power of taxing exports.
Mr. Sherman said it was better to let the Southern States import slaves than to part with them, if they made that a sine qua non. He was opposed to a tax on slaves imported as making the matter worse, because it implied they were property. He acknowledged that, if the power of prohibiting the importation should be given to the general government, it would be exercised. He thought it would be its duty to exercise the power.
Mr. Read was for the commitment, provided the clause concerning taxes on exports could also be committed.
Mr. Sherman observed, that that clause had been agreed to, and therefore could not be committed.
Mr. Randolph was for committing, in order that some middle ground might, if possible, be found. He could never agree to the clause as it stands. He would sooner risk the constitution. He dwelt on the dilemma to which the Convention was exposed. By agreeing to the clause, it would revolt the Quakers, the Methodists, and many others in the States having no slaves. On the other hand, two States might be lost to the union. Let us then, he said, try the chances of a commitment.
On the question for committing the remaining part of sections 4 and 5 of article 7,—Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Aye, 7 ; New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Delaware, No, 3; Massachusetts absent.
Mr. Williamson stated the law of North Carolina on the subject, to wit, that it did not directly prohibit the importation of slaves. It imposed a duty of five pounds on each slave imported from Africa; ten pounds on each from elsewhere, and fifty pounds on each from a State licensing manumission. He thought the Southern States could not be members of the union, if the clause should be rejected, and that it was wrong to force any thing down not absolutely necessary, and which any State must disagree to.
Mr. King thought the subject should be considered in a political light only. If two States will not agree to the constitution, as stated on one side, he could affirm with equal belief, on the other, that great and equal opposition would be experienced from the other States. He remarked that the exemption of slaves from duty, whilst every other import was subject to it, was an inequality that could not fail to strike the commercial sagacity of the Northern and Middle States.
Mr. Langdon was strenuous for giving the power to the general government. He could not, with a good conscience, leave it with the States, who could then go on with the traffic without being restrained by the opinions here given, that they will themselves cease to import slaves.
Mr. Ratledge, from the committee to whom was referred the propositions of Mr Madison and Mr. Pinckney on the 18th and 20th, made a report embodying the general views of the propositions as committed, but striking out the following propositions of Mr. Madison,
"To dispose of the unappropriated lands of the United States."
"To institute temporary governments for new States arising therein."
[Note.—If, as is claimed, the framers of the constitution intended to invest Congress with the power of government over territories, why was this proposition of Mr. Madison struck out which conferred that power in express terms? It is difficult to explain this action upon any other hypothesis than that they intended no such power to be lodged in the federal government; for it cannot be supposed that the sages of that Convention were so fond of implications, as to strike from the frame of government, which they were preparing, express words, for the sake of having powers inferred.]
August 23. The convention was engaged in the discussion of the subject of the militia, treaty-making power, etc.
August 24. Gov. Livingston, from the committee of eleven to whom was referred the clause of the fourth section of the seventh article, relating to the importation of slaves, made the following report.
"Strike out so much of the fourth section as was referred to the committee and insert:—' The migration or importation of such persons as the several States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the legislatures prior to the year 1800, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such immigration or importation, not exceeding the average duties laid on imports.'"
August 25. The above report was taken up. Gen. Pinckney moved to strike out the year 1800 as the year limiting the importing of slaves, and insert 1808. Mr. Madison op