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children born of slaves after the fourth of July, 1799, should be held by the owner of the mothers of the same only until they should respectively attain to the age of twenty-eight years, if males; and if females, until the age of twenty-five years.” Another act of similar import was passed April 8th, 1801. A final blow was given to slavery in that State, by an act of March 31st, 1817. The fourth section is as follows; “Every child born of a slave within this State, after July 4th, 1799, shall be free, but shall remain the servant of the owner of his or her mother, and the executors, administrators, or assigns of such owner, in the same manner as if such child had been bound to service, by the overseers of the poor, and shall continue in such service, if a male, until the age of twenty-eight years, and if a female until the age of twenty-five years; and every child born of a slave within this State, after the passing of this act, shall remain a servant as aforesaid, until the age of twenty-one years, and no longer.” The thirty-first section declares that “every negro, mulatto, or mustee, within this State, born before the fourth of July, 1799, should, from and after the fourth day of July, 1827, be free.” This day has passed, and not a slave is now found in the borders of this great State. After several ineffectual efforts on the part of the advocates of human rights, an act was at length obtained on the 14th day of February, 1804, from the legislature of New Jersey, entitled “an act for the gradual abolition of slavery.” It does not differ materially from the law of Rhode Island, except that white male children born of slaves after the fourth of July, 1804, may be retained as servants, by the owners of their mothers, until the age of twenty-five years only, and female children, in like manner, until the age of twenty-one years only. The number of slaves in 1830 was 2,254; 14 of whom only were under ten years
age. Froin the States and territories north of the Ohio river and east of the Mississippi, slavery is forever excluded by the provisions of an ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States, northwest of the river Ohio,” which was ratified by Congress, July 13th, 1787. The ordinance recites and adopts certain articles, previously agreed upon by the States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia, in the compact by which these States ceded the Northwestern territory to the Federal government.
The articles alluded to are styled, " Articles of compact between the original States and the people and States within the said territory, forever to remain unalterable, unless by common consent.” The sixth article provides that “there shall neither be slavery nor involuntary servitude in said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The inhabitants of Ohio, in addition to the condition contained in the ordinance, embodied the following excellent provision in their constitution. “ Nor shall any indenture of any negro or mulatto, hereafter made and executed out of this State, or if made in the State where the term of service exceeds one year, be of the least validity, except those given in the case of apprenticeships.” A provision in nearly the same words is inserted in the constitution of Illinois, and also in the constitution of Indiana, with the omission in the latter of the words, or if made in the State."
Maine, as a distinct sovereignty, was never contaminated with slavery, having been a part of Massachusetts till 1820. Her constitution, adopted October 29, 1819, and ratified by Congress, March 2d, 1821, contains the same declaration of unalienable rights, which gave freedom to all slaves within the parent commonwealth.
The number of States in which slavery is abolished is twelve, or one half of the whole number. The abolition-acts
* The following is a brief statement of the measures adopted respecting this subject. The cession was made on the part of Virginia, 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, "Shall these words stand as 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 stricken out accordingly. Mr. Jefferson voted for the clause, but was overruled by his colleagues. In March of the next year, Mr. King, of Massachusetts, seconded by Mr. Ellery, of Rhode Island, proposed the formerly rejected article, with this addition, " And that this regusation 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," &c. On this clause, which provided the adequate security, the eight northern States voted in the affirmative, and the four southern States in the negative. The votes of nine States were not yet obtained, and the motion was lost. Two years afterwards the requisite number of votes was received, and the existing ordinance was established, The articles were drawn up by Nathan Dane, of Beverly, Massachusetts.
of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the first two abolition-acts of the State of New York, were gradual, in the sense that they prevent the enslavement of the unborn, while they leave unaffected the condition of those already in existence. The last act of New York, and the constitutional provisions of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and the sixth article of the ordinance of congress of 1787, for the government of the territory northwest of the Ohio, were immediate, in the sense that they communicated freedom to those previous to, and at the time of the passage of the acts held as slaves, though the freedom was not in all cases conferred instantaneously.*
The introduction of negro slavery into the country, was a part of the colonial policy of Great Britain. It was considered to be the dictate of sound policy on the part of the first congress, to leave the whole subject untouched. Accordingly, when the original draught of the Declaration of Independence was presented to that body, a portion of the instrument which reprobated in strong language the conduct of the mother country in relation to the slave population, was entirely stricken out. +
When the articles of confederation between the several States were adopted, the topic of slavery was again carefully excluded. At the meeting of the convention to form the constitution of the United States, in 1787, a number of questions connected with the subject of slavery came up for discussion.
The most important were the four following. The ratio of representation; the time when the slave trade should cease; the disposal of fugitive slaves; and the aid which should be furnished by the United States in case of insurrections, &c.
1. The ratio of representation. On the 11th of June, it was moved by Mr. King, of Massachusetts, and seconded by Mr. Rutlege, of South Carolina, " That the right of suffrage in the first branch of the national legislature, ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of confederation, but according to some equitable ratio of representation.” The motion was adopted by a vote of seven States in the affirmative. Thereupon it was moved by Mr. Wilson, of Pennsylvania, and seconded by Mr. Charles Pinckney, of South Carolina, that after the words “equitable representation,” there should be added the following words, “In proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex, and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three-fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians, not paying taxes in each State.” On this question Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, voted in the affirmative, and New Jersey, and Delaware, in the negative. New Hampshire was not at that time represented. The principal opponents to this mode of representation, were Mr. Gerry of Massachusetts, and Mr. Martin of Maryland. Mr. Gerry said that “the idea of property ought not to be the rule of representation. Blacks are property, and are used at the southward as horses and cattle are at the northward ; and why should their representation be increased at the southward on account of the number of slaves, any more than the representation of the north should be increased on account of their horses or oxen.” Mr. Martin gives the following synopsis of the objections to the measure; "that taking slaves into the computation, involved the absurdity of increasing the power of a State in making laws for freemen, in proportion as that State violated the rights of freedom ; that it might be proper to take slaves into consideration when taxes were to be apportioned, because it had a tendency to discourage slavery ; but to take them into account in giving representation, tended to encourage the slave trade, and to make it the interest of the States to continue that infamous traffic ; that slaves could not be taken into account as men or citizens, because they were not admitted to the rights of citizens in the States which continued or adopted slavery. If they were to be taken into account as property, it was asked, what peculiar circumstance should render this property, of all others the most odious in its nature, entitled to the high privilege of conferring consequence
* For a part of the preceding statements, we are indebted to the very able " sketch of the laws of slavery," by George M. Stroud, Esq. 1828.
† Mr. Jefferson supposed that this clause was stricken out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who wished to continue the importation of slaves, and that the northern carriers also felt a little tender under that
in the government to its possessors rather than any other property ?” To these various allegations it was replied, that slaves are considered by our laws in some respects, as persons, and in other respects as property. In
being compelled to labor for a master, in being vendible, &c. the slaves fall under the legal denomination of property. On the other hand in being protected in life and limbs, and in being punishable themselves for all violence committed against others, the slaves are clearly regarded as members of civil society ; not as a part of the irrational creation, but as moral persons. Moreover, would it be impartial or consistent to reject the slaves from the list of inhabitants, when the shares of representation were to be calculated, and insert them on the lists when the tariff of contributions was to be calculated. Might not some surprise also be expressed, that those who reproach the southern States with the barbarous policy of considering as property, a part of their human brethren, should themselves contend, that the government to which all the States are to be parties, ought to consider this unfortunate race more completely in the unnatural light of property, than the very laws of which they complain? To the objection that slaves are not included in the estimate of representatives in any of the States possessing them, it was replied that it was a fundamental principle of the constitution, that as the aggregate number of representatives allotted to the several States is to be determined by federal rule, founded on the aggregate number of inhabitants, so the right of choosing this allotted number in each State, is to be exercised by such part of the inhabitants, as the State itself may designate. Again, government is instituted no less for the protection of the property, than of the persons of individuals. In the constitution, the rights of property are committed into the same hands with personal rights. Some attention ought to be paid to property in the choice of those hands.*
2. The time when the slave trade should cease. In order to understand this subject fully, it is necessary to make a preliminary remark. At the time the constitution was formed, it was the interest of the northern States, that there should be no restraints on their navigation, and that they should have full power, by a majority in congress, to make commercial regulations in favor of their own, and in restraint of the navigation of foreigners. The southern States wished to impose à restraint on the northern, by requiring that two thirds in congress, should be requisite to pass an act in regulation of
* See the 54th number of the Federalist, and the speech of the Hon. Luther Martin, of Maryland, in the 4th volume of Elliot's Journal, VOL. I.