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pass who would enter the sacred temple. Here are the inscriptions by which they are earliest impressed. Here is first seen the genius of the place. Here the proclamation of Liberty is soonest heard. “We, the People of the United States," says the Preamble, “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.” Thus, according to undeniable words, the Constitution was ordained, not to establish, secure, or sanction Slavery, - not to promote the special interests of Slaveholders, - not to make Slavery national, in any way, form, or manner, -- but to.“establish justice," " “ promote the general welfare," and "secure the blessings of Liberty." Here, surely, Liberty is national.
Secondly. Next to the Preamble in importance are the explicit contemporaneous declarations in the Convention which framed the Constitution, and elsewhere, expressed in different forms of language, but all tending to the same conclusion. By the Preamble the Constitution speaks for Freedom. By these declarations the Fathers speak as the Constitution speaks. Early in the Convention, Gouverneur Morris, of Pennsylvania, broke forth in the language of an Abolitionist: “He never would concur in upholding domestic slavery. It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of Heaven on the States where it prevailed.” 1 These positive words, in harmony with other things from the same quarter, show a vehement determination that Slavery should not be national
1 Madison's Debates, August 8, 1787.
At a later day a discussion ensued on the clause touching the African slave-trade, which reveals the definitive purposes of the Convention. From the report of Mr. Madison we learn what was said. Oliver Ellsworth, of Connecticut, said: “The morality or wisdom of Slavery are considerations belonging to the States themselves.” 1 According to him, Slavery was sectional. Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts, “ 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.” 2 According to him, Slavery is sectional, and he would not make it national. Roger Sherman, of Connecticut, "was opposed to a tax on slaves imported, as making the matter worse, because it implied they were property.' He would not have Slavery national. After debate, the subject was referred to a committee of eleven, who reported a substitute, authorizing “a tax or duty on such migration or importation, at a rate not exceeding the average of the duties laid on imports.” 4 This language, classifying persons with merchandise, seemed to imply a recognition that they were property. Mr. Sherman at once declared himself “ against this part, as acknowledging men to be property, by taxing them as such under the character of slaves." Mr. Gorham “thought that Mr. Sherman should consider the duty, not as implying that slaves are property, but as a discouragement to the importation of them."6 Mr. Madison, in mild juridical phrase, “thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men."7 After discussion it was finally agreed to make the clause read:
1 Madison's Debates, Aug. 21, 1787.
5 Ibid., Aug. 25.
“But a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.
The difficulty seemed then to be removed, and the whole clause was adopted. This record demonstrates that the word “persons ” was employed to show that slaves, everywhere under the Constitution, are always to be regarded as persons, and not as property, and thus to exclude from the Constitution all idea that there can be property in man. Remember well, that Mr. Sherman was opposed to the clause in its original form, “as acknowledging men to be property," — that Mr. Madison was also opposed to it, because he "thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men,” -- and that, after these objections, the clause was so amended as to exclude the idea. But Slavery cannot be national, unless this idea is distinctly and unequivocally admitted into the Constitution.
The evidence still accumulates. At a later day in the proceedings of the Convention, as if to set the seal upon the solemn determination to have no sanction of Slavery in the Constitution, the word “servitude," which appeared in the clause on the apportionment of representatives and taxes was struck out, and the word "service" inserted. This was done by unanimous vote, on the motion of Mr. Randolph, of Virginia ; and the reason assigned for this substitution, according to Mr. Madison, in his authentic report of the debate, was, that “the former was thought to express the condition of slaves, and the latter the obligations of free persons. With such care was Slavery excluded from the Constitution.
1 Madison's Debates, Aug. 25. 2 Ibid., Sept. 13.
Nor is this all. In the Massachusetts Convention, to which the Constitution, when completed, was submitted for ratification, a veteran of the Revolution, General Heath, openly declared, that, according to his view, Slavery was sectional, and not national. His language was pointed. “I apprehend," he said, " that it is not in our power to do anything for or against those who are in slavery in the Southern States. No gentleman within these walls detests every idea of Slavery more than I do; it is generally detested by the people of this Commonwealth ; and I ardently hope that the time will soon come when our brethren in the Southern States will view it as we do, and put a stop to it; but to this we have no right to compel them. Two questions naturally arise: If we ratify the Constitution, shall we do anything by our act to hold the blacks in slavery? or shall we become partakers of other men's sins? I think neither of
Afterwards, in the first Congress under the Constitution, on a motion, much debated, for a duty on the importation of slaves, the same Roger Sherman, who in the National Convention opposed the idea of property in man, authoritatively exposed the true relations of the Constitution to Slavery. His language was, that “ the Constitution does not consider these persons as a species of property; it speaks of them as persons." 2
Thus distinctly and constantly, from the very lips of the framers of the Constitution, we learn the falsehood of recent assumptions in favor of Slavery and in derogation of Freedom.
1 Debates, Resolutions, etc., of the Convention of Massachusetts, January 30, 1788.
2 Annals of Congress, 1st Cong. 1st Sess., col. 342.
Thirdly. According to a familiar rule of interpretation, all laws concerning the same matter, in pari materid, are to be construed together. By the same reason, the grand political acts of the Nation are to be construed together, giving and receiving light from each other. Earlier than the Constitution was the Declaration of Independence, embodying, in immortal words, those primal truths to which our country pledged itself with baptismal vows as a Nation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident," says the Nation : "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But this does not stand alone. There is another national act of similar import. On the successful close of the Revolution, the Continental Congress, in an Address to the States, repeated the same lofty truth. “Let it be remembered," said the Nation again, “that it has ever been the pride and boast of America, that the rights for which she contended were the rights of human nature. By the blessing of the Author of these rights on the means exerted for their defence, they have prevailed against all opposition, and FORM THE BASIS of thirteen independent States.” 1 Such were the acts of the Nation in its united capacity. Whatever may be the privileges of States in their individual capacities, within their several local jurisdictions, no power can be attributed to the Nation, in the absence of positive, unequivocal grant, inconsistent with these two national declarations. Here, Sir, is the national heart,
1 Journal of Congress, April 26, 1783, Vol. VIII. p. 201.