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Note. - A monument of Italian marble was erected to the memory of Mr. Rantoul in the burial-ground at Beverly: It is an upright, four-sided shaft, on the front face of which is the following inscription, written by Mr. Sumner.
Here lies the body of
ROBERT RANTOUL, JR.,
and died at Washington, 7th August, 1852.
improvement of his fellow-men. The faithful friend of Education, he upheld our Public Schools. A lover of Virtue, he opposed Intemperance
by word and example.
to abolish the punishment of Death.
to a slave hunted down by public clamor,
and bore his testimony, in Court and Congress, against the cruel enactment which sanctioned the outrage.
He held many places of official trust and honor, but the Good Works filling his days were above these.
Stranger! at least in something imitate him.
AUTHORSHIP OF THE ORDINANCE OF FREE
DOM IN THE NORTHWEST TERRITORY.
LETTER TO HON. EDWARD COLES, AUGUST 23, 1852.
MR. COLES has been private secretary to Mr. Jefferson, and then to Mr. Madison, and afterwards Governor of Illinois. The following extract of a letter from him to Mr. Sumner, dated Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey, August 18, 1852, raises the question of the authorship of the Ordinance of Freedom.
6 Not having the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with you, I shall ask the favor of Senator Cooper to present you this, and to make me known to you, and thus explain the obligation you have placed me under, as the friend of Mr. Jefferson, to correct an error you lately made in the Senate, by which you take from him, and give to another, one of the noblest and most consistent acts of his life.
“In your speech in the Senate, on the occasion of the death of Mr. Ran. toul, you spoke of Nathan Dane as the “ Author" of the Ordinance for the government of the Territory northwest of the Ohio. With my recollection, for I have no book or person to refer to at this summer retreat, - I could not have been more surprised, if you had designated as the author of the Declaration of Independence one of the members who added his name to it after it had been adopted by Congress."
SENATE CHAMBER, August 23, 1852. EAR SIR, - I have been honored by your letter
of August 18th, in which you kindly criticise an allusion by me in the Senate to Nathan Dane, as the author of the Ordinance of 1787. You award this high honor to Mr. Jefferson.
Believe me, I would not take from this great patriot one of his many titles to regard. Among these, I cannot forget the early, though unsuccessful effort, to which you refer, for the prohibition of Slavery in the Territories of the United States. But, while according to him just homage on this account, I cannot forget the crowning labors of another.
I submit to you, as beyond question, that the Ordinance of 1787, as finally adopted, was from the pen of Nathan Dane. In his great work on American Law, published in 1824, while Mr. Jefferson was yet alive, I find the following claim of authorship: "This ordinance (formed by the author of this work) was framed mainly from the laws of Massachusetts.” 1
In the celebrated debate of 1830, on Foot's Resolution, Mr. Webster, in his first speech, referred to the Ordinance as “ drawn by Nathan Dane.”? Afterwards, in his remarkable reply to Mr. Hayne, he vindicated at length this claim of authorship. While admitting the earlier efforts for the prohibition of Slavery in the Territories, he says: “It is no derogation from the credit, whatever that may be, of drawing the Ordinance, that its principles had before been prepared and discussed in the form of resolutions. If one should reason in that way, what would become of the distinguished honor of the author of the Declaration of Independence ? There is not a sentiment in that paper which had not been voted and resolved in the Assemblies, and other popular bodies in the country, over and over again.” 3
Such, as it seems to me, is the true state of the question. To Jefferson belongs the honor of the first effort to prohibit Slavery in the Territories : to Dane belongs the honor of finally embodying this Prohibition in the Ordinance drawn by his hand in 1787.
1 Abridgment and Digest of American Law, Vol. VII. ch. 223, art. 1, § 3. 2 Works, Vol. III. p. 263. 3 Ibid., p. 283.
As this question has already been presented to the Senate in a classical debate memorable in the history of the country, it seems to me hardly advisable, at this late stage of the session, to undertake its revival. If you should continue to think that I have made an error, I shall be happy to correct it in any practicable way.
Allow me to express my sincere respect for your character, with which from childhood I have been familiar, and my gratitude for the steadfast support you have ever given to the principles of Freedom advocated by Jefferson.
I remain, dear Sir, faithfully yours,
Hon. EDWARD COLES.
THE history of the efforts for the exclusion of Slavery from the Northwest Territory is thus related by Mr. Webster, in the speeches above referred to.
“ An attempt has been made to transfer from the North to the South the honor of this exclusion of Slavery from the Northwestern Territory. The Journal, without argument or comment, refutes such attempts. The cession by Virginia was made in March, 1784. On the 19th of April following, a committee, consisting of Messrs. Jefferson, Chase, and Howell, reported a plan for a temporary government of the Territory, in which was this article: “That, after the year 1800, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been convicted.' Mr Spaight, of North Carolina, moved to strike out this paragraph. The question was put, according to the form then practised, ' Shall these words stand as a part of the plan?' New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, seven States, voted in the affirmative; Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, in the negative. North Carolina was divided. As the consent of nine States was necessary, the words could
not stand, and were struck out accordingly. Mr. Jefferson voted for the clause, but was overruled by his colleagues.
“In March of the next year (1785), Mr. King, of Massachusetts, seconded by Mr. Ellery, of Rhode Island, proposed the formerly rejected article, with this addition: “And that this regulation shall be an article of compact, and remain a fundamental principle of the constitutions between the thirteen original States and each of the States described in the resolve. On this clause, which provided the adequate and thorough security, the eight Northern States at that time voted affirmatively, and the four Southern States negatively.1 The votes of nine States were not yet obtained, and thus the provision was again rejected by the Southern States. The perseverance of the North held out, and two years afterwards the object was attained,” by the passage, on the 13th of July, 1787, with only one dissenting voice, of the "Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio."
“We are accustomed, Sir, to praise the lawgivers of Antiquity; we help to perpetuate the fame of Solon and Lycurgus; but I doubt whether one single law of any lawgiver, ancient or modern, has produced effects of more distinct, marked, and lasting character than the Ordinance of 1787. That instrument was drawn by Nathan Dane, then and now a citizen of Massachusetts. It was adopted, as I think I have understood, without the slightest alteration; and certainly it has happened to few men to be the authors of a political measure of more large and enduring consequence. It fixed forever the character of the population in the vast regions northwest of the Ohio, by excluding from them involuntary servitude. It impressed on the soil itself, while it was yet a wilderness, an incapacity to sustain any other than freemen. It laid the interdict against personal servitude in original compact, not only deeper than all local law, but deeper, also, than all local constitutions."
1 More precisely, the seven Northern States, together with Maryland, affirmatively, - and four of the Southern States, namely, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, negatively, - Delaware being unreprésented.