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by every one of the States. The power must have remained dormant, or its exercise would have been positively mischievous. It never could have been exercised beneficially for either of the two races; not only because it could not have followed any uniform system, but because the confusions and jealousies which must have attended any attempt to legislate specially, must either have totally obstructed the power, or must have made its exercise absolutely pernicious. These consequences, which the least reflection will reveal, may serve to show us, far better than any declarations or debates, why the framers of the Constitution studiously avoided acquiring any power over the institution of slavery in the States;
why the representatives of one class of States could not have consented to give, and the representatives of another class could never have desired to obtain, such a power for the national Constitution.
But it may be asked, and the question is often prompted by a feeling of pity towards individual cases of hardship,- Why did not the framers of the Constitution content themselves with the negative position, which leaves the institution of slavery to the uncontrolled direction of every State in which it is found? Why did they establish a rule that obtains nowhere else among distinct communities, and require that the fugitive from this relation of a purely local character, who has committed no crime, and has fled only to acquire a natural liberty, shall be restored to the dominion of the local law which declares him to be a slave? Why should the States
which had abolished, or were about to abolish, this relation, consent to the use of force within their own territories, for the purpose of upholding the relation in other States? These questions are pertinent to the estimate which mankind may be called upon to form concerning the provisions of our national Constitution, and they admit of an answer.
The most material answer to them is, that, without some stipulation on the part of the States where slavery was not to exist that their free territory should not be made the means of a practical interference with the relation in other States, the mere concession of the abstract principle that slavery was to be exclusively under the control of State authority would have been of no real value to any one of the States, or to any of their inhabitants, of either race. But some active security for this principle was of the utmost importance, not merely as a concession which would secure the formation of the new Union, but as a means to secure the beneficent working of the Constitution after its acceptance had been obtained. It was as important to the black race as it was to the whites; for it is not to be doubted, that the continuance of a division into separate States, and the firm maintenance of an exclusive local authority over the domestic relations of their inhabitants, have been the cause, under the Divine Providence, of a far higher civilization, and consequently of a far better condition of the subjected race, than could have been attained in the same localities if the States had been in all respects resolved into one consolidated republic.
Let the reader spread before him the map of the thirteen republics of 1787, and mark upon each of them the relative numbers of their white and colored inhabitants, and then efface the boundaries of the States. Let him imagine all legislative power, all the superintending care of government, withdrawn into a central authority, whose seat must have been somewhere near the centre of the free white population. Let him observe how that population must have tended away from the regions where the labor of slaves would be most productive, and how dense the slave populations must there have become. All that now constitutes the pride of men in their separate State, that induces to residence and makes it the home of their affections, would have passed away; and at the same time, vast tracts of wonderful fertility must have retained the African, and with him scarcely any white man but the speculator, the overseer, and a solitary tradesman. Into such regions as those, the national authority could not have penetrated with success. Legislation would have wanted the necessary machinery, by which to reach and elevate the condition of society at such remote extremities from the centre. A more than Russian despotism would not have sufficed to carry the authority of government and the restraints of law into communities so depopulated of freemen, so filled with slaves, and so far removed from the seat of power.
But now let the same map be again unfolded, with all the lines that mark the distinct sovereignties of
the States. In each of them there is a complete and efficient government. Each has its history, unbroken since the first settlers laid the foundations of a State. In each there is a centre of civilization, a source of law, and the public conscience of an organized self-governing community. Each of them can act, and does act, upon the condition of the African race within its own limits, according to its own judgment of the exigencies of the case; and it is a fact capable of easy verification, that, in the progress of three quarters of a century, this local power has effected for that race what no national legislature could have accomplished. For, if we look back to the period when the Constitution of the United States was adopted, and suppose it to have acquired the means of acting on the institution of slavery within the States, we shall see that, if the national authority had approached the subject of emancipation at all, it must have applied the same rule in South Carolina as in Pennsylvania, and at the same time. But the emancipation of the half a million of slaves held in widely different proportions in the various subdivisions of the country, or of their still more numer ous descendants, by a single and uniform measure comprehending them all, would at no time since the Constitution was adopted have been a merciful or defensible act. Nothing could have remained, therefore, for the national power to do, but to attempt such legislation as might tend to regulate and ameliorate the condition of servitude; and such legislation must have been wholly ineffectual, and would
soon have been abandoned, or been superseded by schemes that must have increased the evils which they aimed to remove.
In thus placing a high value upon the exclusive power of the separate States over this the most delicate and embarrassing of all the social problems involved in their destiny, I have not forgotten that, since the adoption of the national Constitution, nine slave States have been added to the Union, and that the slaves have increased to more than three millions. This increase, however, has not been in a greater ratio than that of the white population, nor greater than it must have been under any form of polity which the thirteen original States might have seen fit to adopt in the year 1787, unless that polity had had a direct tendency to restrain the growth of the country, and to prevent the settlement of new regions. As it is, it is to be remembered that, wherever the institution of slavery has gone, there has gone with it the system of State government, the power and organization of a distinct community, and consequently a better civilization than could have been the lot of distant provinces of a great empire, or distant territories of a consolidated republic.
These considerations will account for that apparent inconsistency which has sometimes attracted the attention of those who view the institutions of the United States from a distance, and without a suffi
1 In 1790, the slaves numbered 697,897, and the whites 3,172,464. In 1850, the slaves had increased
to 3,204,313, and the whites to 19,533,068.