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education is an object of lavish expenditure; if the institutions of religion, though depending on a purely voluntary support, are provided for liberally, and from conscientious motives; then is the national spirit of acquisition not without fruits, of which it has no need to be ashamed.
The objection, that the Constitution of the United States, and the immense prosperity which has flowed from it, were obtained by certain concessions in favor of the institution of slavery, results from a merely superficial view of the subject. If we would form a right estimate of the gain or loss to human nature effected by any given political arrangement, we must take into consideration the antecedent facts, and endeavor to judge whether a better result could have been obtained by a different mode of dealing with them. We shall then be able to appreciate the positive good that has been gained, or the positive loss that has been suffered.
The prominent facts to be considered in this connection are, in the first place, that slavery existed, and would long exist, in certain of the States; and that the condition of the African race in those States was universally regarded as a matter of purely local It could not in fact have been otherwise; for there were slaves in every State excepting Massachusetts and New Hampshire; and among the other States in which measures had been, or were likely to be, taken for the removal of slavery, there was a great variety of circumstances affecting the time and mode in which it should be finally extinguished.
As soon as the point was settled, in the formation of the Constitution of the United States, that the State governments were to be preserved, with all their powers unimpaired which were not required by the objects of the national government to be surrendered to the Union, the domestic relations of their inhabitants with each other necessarily remained under their exclusive control. Those relations were not involved in the purposes of the Federal Union.
So soon, also, as this was perceived and admitted, it became a necessary consequence of the admission, that the national authority should guarantee to the people of each State the right to shape and modify their own social institutions; for without this principle laid at the foundation of the Union, there could be no peace or security for such a mixed system of government.
In the second place, we have to consider the fact, that, among the political rights of the States anterior to the national Constitution, was the right to admit or to prohibit the further importation of slaves; — a traffic not then forbidden by any European nation to its Colonies, but which had been interdicted by ten of the American States. The transfer of this right to the Federal Union was a purely voluntary act; it was not strictly necessary for the purposes for which it was proposed to establish the Constitution of the United States; although there were political reasons for which a part of the States might wish to acquire control over this subject, as well as moral reasons why all the States should have desired to vest that
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control in the general government. States, however, as we have seen, took a different view of their interest and duty, and declined to enter the new Union unless this traffic should be excepted from the power over commerce for a period of twenty years.
It is quite plain, that, if these facts had been met and dealt with in a manner different from the settlement that was actually made, one of two consequences must have ensued; either no Constitution at all could have been adopted, or there would have been a Union of some kind, from which three at least of the States must have been excluded. If the first, by far the most probable contingency, had happened, a great feebleness and poverty of society must have continued to be the lot of all these States; there must have been perpetual collisions and rival confederacies; there certainly would have been an indefinite continuance of the slave-trade, accompanied and followed by a great external pressure upon the States which permitted it, which would have led to a war of races, or to a frightful oppression of the slaves. Most of these evils would have followed the establishment of a partial confederacy.
On the other hand, we are to consider what has been gained to humanity by the establishment of the Constitution. The extinction of the slave-trade, followed by a public opinion with reference to it that is as strong and reliable in the Southern as in the Northern States, was purchased at a price by no means unreasonable, when compared with the mag
nitude of the acquisition. The great prosperity and high civilization which are due to the commercial power of the Constitution have been a vast benefit to both races; -to the whites by the superior refinement they have created, and to the blacks by the gradual but certain amelioration of their condition. The social strength and security occasioned by constantly increasing wealth, combined with the acknowledgment and establishment of the doctrine which makes every State the uncontrolled arbiter of the domestic condition of its inhabitants, has put it in the power of those who have charge of the negro to deal prudently and wisely with their great problem, without the interference of those who could benefit neither race by their intervention. This, in every rational view of the subject, cannot but be regarded as one of the chief blessings conferred by the Constitution of the United States.
It has made emancipation possible, where otherwise it would have been impossible, or where it could have been obtained only through the horrors of both servile and civil war. It has enabled local authorities to adapt changes to local circumstances. Its beneficent influences may be traced in the laws of the States, in the records of their jurisprudence, and in the advanced and advancing condition of their public sentiment; and he who should follow those influences in all their details, and count the sum of what it has effected for the moral and physical wellbeing of the subjected race, would find cause for devout gratitude to the Ruler of the Universe. Great
as has been the increase of slaves in the United States during the last seventy years, there can be no question that the general improvement of their condition has been equally great, and that it has kept pace with the increasing prosperity of the country. That prosperity has enabled individual enterprise and benevolence to plant a colony upon the coast of Africa, which, after centuries of discipline and education, may yet be the means of restoring to its native soil, as civilized and Christian men, a race that came to us as heathens and barbarians.
Surely, then, with such results to look back upon, with such hopes in the future, the patriot and the Christian can have no real cause for regret or complaint, that in a system of representative government, made necessary by controlling circumstances, the unimportant anomaly should be found, of a representation of men without political rights or social privileges; or that the question of emancipation, either for the mass or the individual, should be carefully secured to local authority; or even that the slave-trade should have been prosecuted for a few years, to be extinguished by America first of all the nations of the world.