« EelmineJätka »
These concessions were the representation of the slaves and the exemption of exports from taxation. If the slaves had not been included in the system of representation, the Northern States could have had no political motive for acquiring the power to put an end to the slave-trade. If the exports of their staple productions had not been withdrawn from the revenue power, the Southern States could have had no very strong or special motive to dra them into the new Union; but with such an exemption, they could derive benefits from the Constitution as great as those likely to be enjoyed by their Northern confederates. Both parties, therefore, entered the final committee of compromise with a strong desire to complete the Union and to establish the new government. The Northern States wished for a full commercial power, including the slave trade and navigation laws, to be dependent on the voices of a majority in Congress. The Southern States struggled to retain the right to import slaves, and to limit the enactment of naviga tion laws to a vote of two thirds. Both parties could be gratified only by conceding some portion of their respective demands.
If the Northern States could accept a future, instead of an immediate, prohibition of the slavetrade, they could gain ultimately a full commercial power over all subjects, to be exercised by a national majority. If the Southern States could confide in a national majority, so far as to clothe them with full ultimate power to regulate commerce, they could
obtain the continuance of the slave-trade for a limited period.
Such was in reality the adjustment made and recommended by the committee. They proposed that the migration or importation of such persons as the several States then existing might think proper to admit, should not be prohibited by the national legislature before the year 1800, but that a tax or duty might be imposed on such persons, at a rate not exceeding the average of the duties laid on imports; that the clause relating to a capitation tax should remain; and that the provision requiring á navigation act to be passed by a vote of two thirds, should be stricken out.1
No change was made in this arrangement, when it came before the Convention, except to substitute the year 1808 as the period at which the restriction on the commercial power was to terminate, and to provide for a specific tax on the importation of slaves, not exceeding ten dollars on each person. The remaining features of this set
1 Elliot, V. 470, 471.
2 Two grave objections were made to this settlement respecting the importation of slaves Mr. Madison records himself as saying, in answer to the motion of General Pinckney to adopt the year 1808, that twenty years would produce all the mischief that could be apprehended from the slave-trade, and that so long a term would be more dishonorable to the American character, than to say nothing about
it in the Constitution. But the real question was, whether the power to prohibit the importation at any time could be acquired for the Constitution; and the facts show that it could have been obtained only by the arrangement proposed and carried. The votes of seven States against four, given for General Pinckney's motion, show the convictions then entertained. The other objection (urged by Roger Sherman and Mr. Madison) was,
tlement, relating to a capitation tax and a navigation act, were sanctioned by a large majority of the States.1
Thus, by timely and well-considered concessions on each side, was the slave-trade brought immediately within the revenue power of the general government, and also, at the expiration of twenty years, within its power to regulate commerce. By the same means, the commercial power, without any other restriction than that relating to the temporary toleration of the importation of slaves, was vested in
that to lay a tax upon imported slaves implied an acknowledgment that men could be articles of property. But it appears from the statements of other members, also recorded by Madison, that it was part of the compromise agreed upon in committee, that the slavetrade should be placed under the revenue power, in consideration of its not being placed at once within the commercial power. It also appears that the tax was made to apply to the "importation of such persons as the States might see fit to admit," until the year 1808, in order to include and to discourage the introduction of convicts.
But the principal object was undoubtedly the slave-trade; and this particular phraseology was employed, instead of speaking directly of the importation of slaves into the States of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, in order, on the one hand, not to give offence to
those States, and on the other, to avoid offending those who objected to the use of the word "slaves" in the Constitution. Elliot, V. 477, 478.
1 That part of the compromise relating to the slave-trade, &c. was adopted in Convention by the votes of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, ay, 7; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, no, 4. Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia voted for a proposition made by C. Pinckney, to postpone the report, in order to take up a clause requiring all commercial regulations to be passed by two thirds of each house. But on the rejection of this motion, the report of the compromise committee, recommending that a two-thirds vote for a navigation act be stricken out, was agreed to, nem. con.; as was also the clause relating to a capitation
a national majority. This result at once placed the foreign slave-trade by American vessels or citizens within the control of the national legislature, and enabled Congress to forbid the carrying of slaves to foreign countries; and at the end of the year 1808, it brought the whole traffic within the reach of a national prohibition.1
Too high an estimate cannot well be formed, of the importance and value of this final settlement of conflicting sectional interests and demands. History has to thank the patriotism and liberality of the Northern States, for having acquired, for the government of the Union, by reasonable concessions, the power to terminate the African slave-trade. We know, from almost every day's experience since the founding of the government, that individual cupidity, which knows no geographical limits, which defies public opinion whether in the North or in the South, required and still requires the restraint and chastisement of national power. The separate authority of the States would have been wholly unequal to the suppression of the slave-trade: for even if they had all finally adopted the policy of a stringent prohibition, without a navy, and without treaties, they could never have contended against the bold artifice and desperate cunning of avarice, stimulated by the enormous gains which have always been reaped in this inhuman trade.
The just and candid voice of History has also to
1 See the note on the American abolition of the slave-trade, ante, Vol. I. p. 460.
thank the Southern statesmen who consented to this arrangement, for having clothed a majority of the two houses of Congress with a full commercial power. They felt, and truly felt, that this was a great concession. But they looked at what they had gained. They had gained the exemption of their staple productions from taxation as objects of foreign commerce; the enumeration of their slaves in the basis of Congressional representation; and the settlement of the slave-trade upon terms not offensive to State pride. They had also gained the Union, with its power to maintain an army and a navy, — with its power and duty to protect them against foreign invasion and domestic insurrection, and to secure their republican constitutions. They looked, therefore, upon the grant of the power to regulate commerce by the ordinary modes of legislation, in its relations to the interests of a great empire, whose foundations ought to be laid broadly and deeply on the national welfare.' They saw that the Revolution had cost the Eastern States enormous sacrifices of commercial wealth, and that the weakness of the Confederation had destroyed the little remnant of their trade.2 They saw and admitted the necessity for an unrestrained control over the foreign commerce of the country, if it was ever to rise from the prostrate condition in which it had been placed by foreign powers. They acted accordingly; and by their ac
1 See the remarks of John Rut- 2 General Pinckney. Ibid. 489. ledge. Madison, Elliot, V. 491.