Page images
PDF
EPUB

Accordingly, when a counter proposition was brought forward by Williamson,'-which contemplated a return to the principle of numbers alone, and was intended to provide for a periodical census of the free white inhabitants and of three fifths of all other persons, and that the representation should be regulated accordingly, - six States on a division of the question voted for a census of the free inhabitants, and four States recorded their votes against it. This result brought the Convention to a direct vote upon the naked question whether the slaves should be included as persons, and in the proportion of three fifths, in the census for the future apportionment of representatives among the States.

2

Massachusetts and Pennsylvania now, for the first time, separated themselves from Virginia. It was perceived that a system of representation by numbers would draw after it the necessity for an admission of the slaves into the enumeration, unless it were confined to the free inhabitants. On the one hand, the delegates of these two States had to look to the probable encouragement of the slave-trade,

1 Of North Carolina.

2 Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, ay, 6; Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, no, 4. The votes of South Carolina and Georgia were given in the negative, because they desired that the blacks should be included in the census equally with the whites. For the same 20

VOL. II.

reason, as we shall see presently, those States voted against the other branch of the proposition, which would give but three fifths of the slaves. But upon what principle, unless it was from general opposition to all numerical representation, the State of Delaware should have voted with them on both of these features of the proposed census, is, I confess, to me inexplicable.

that would follow an admission of the blacks into the representation, and to the probable refusal of their constituents to sanction such an admission. On the other hand, they had to encounter the difficulty of arranging a just rule of popular representation between States which would have no slaves, or very few, and States which would have great numbers of persons in that condition, without giving to the latter class of States some weight in the government proportioned to the magnitude of their populations. But they would not directly admit the naked principle that a slave is to be placed in the same category with a freeman for the purpose of representation, when he has no voice in the appointment of the representative; and the proposition was rejected by their votes and those of four other States.1 Thereupon the whole substitute of Mr. Williamson, which contemplated numerical representation in the place of the combined rule of numbers and wealth, was unanimously rejected.

The report of the committee of compromise still stood, therefore, but modified into the proposition of a fixed number for the first House of Representatives, and a rule to be compounded of the numbers and wealth of the States, to be applied by the legislature in adjusting the representation in future houses. A difficulty, apparently insuperable, had

1 Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, ay, 4; Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, South

Carolina, no, 6. South Carolina voted in the negative, for a reason suggested in the previous note, ante, p. 153.

defeated the application of the simple and as it might otherwise appropriately be called the natural rule of numerical representation. The social and political condition of the slave, so totally unlike that of the freeman, presented a problem hitherto unknown in the voluntary construction of representative government. It was certainly true, that, by the law of the community in which he was found, and by his normal condition, he could have no voice in legislation. It was equally true, that he was no party to the establishment of any State constitution; that nobody proposed to make him a party to the Constitution of the United States, to confer upon him any rights or privileges under it, or to give to the Union any power to affect or influence his status in a single particular. It was true also, that the condition in which he was held was looked upon with strong disapprobation and dislike by the people of several of the States, and it was not denied by some of the wisest and best of the Southern statesmen that it was a political and social evil.

-

Still, there were more than half a million of these people of the African race, distributed among five of the States, performing their labor, constituting their peasantry, and if the numbers of laborers in a community form any just index of its wealth and importance forming in each of those States a most important element in its relative magnitude and weight. It should be recollected, that the problem before the framers of the Constitution was, not how to create a system of representation for a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

single community possessing in all its parts the same social institutions, but how to create a system in which different communities of mere freemen and other different communities of freemen and slaves could be represented, in a limited government instituted for certain special objects, with a proper regard to the respective rights and interests of those communities, and to the magnitude of the stake which they would respectively have in the legislation by which all were to be affected.1

It does not appear, from any records of the discussions that have come down to us, in what way it was supposed the combined rule of numbers and wealth could be applied. If its application were left to Congress, in adjusting the system with reference to slaveholding States, the slaves must be counted as persons or as property; and as the proposed rule did not determine which, they might be treated as persons in one census, and as property in the next, and so on interchangeably. The suggestion of the principle, however, which seemed to be a just one, and which grew out of the conflicting opinions entertained upon the question whether numbers of inhabitants are alone a just index of the wealth of a community, brought into view a very important doctrine, that had long been familiar to the American people; namely, that the right of representation ought to be conceded to every community on which a tax is to be imposed; or, as one of the

1 See the note on the population holding States, at the end of this of the slaveholding and non-slave- chapter.

maxims of the Revolutionary period expressed it, that "taxation and representation ought to go together." This doctrine was really applicable to the case, and capable of furnishing a principle that would alleviate the difficulty; for if it could be agreed that, in levying taxes upon a slaveholding State, the wealth that consisted in slaves should be included, the maxim itself demonstrated the propriety of giving as large a proportion of representation as the proportion of tax imposed; and if, in order to ascertain the representative right of the State, the slaves were to be counted as persons, and, in ascertaining the tax to be paid, they were to be counted as property, they would not require to be considered in both capacities under either branch of the rule. But in order to give the maxim this application, it would be necessary to concede that the numbers of the slaves and the free persons furnished a fair index of the wealth of one State, as it was necessary to admit that the numbers of its free inhabitants furnished a fair index of the wealth of another State. If the latter were to be assumed, and the taxation imposed upon a State were regulated by its numbers of people, upon the idea that such numbers fairly represented the wealth of the community, it was proper to apply the same principle to the slaves. If this principle were applied to the slaves when ascertaining the amount of taxes to be paid, it ought equally to be applied to them in ascertaining the numbers of representatives to be allowed to the State; otherwise, the value of the slaves must be

« EelmineJätka »