Page images
PDF
EPUB

it, such as intemperance, lewdness, and prodigality. These vices enfeeble both the body and the mind, and unfit men for any vigorous action and employment, either external or mental; and those who are unfit for such exertion are already very degenerate-degenerate not only in a moral, but a natural sense; they are contemptible, too, and will soon be despised, even by the negroes themselves.

"Slavery tends to lewdness, not only as it produces indolence, but as it affords abundant opportunity for that wickedness, without either the danger or difficulty of an attack on the virtue of a woman of chastity, or the danger of a connection with one of ill fame. A planter, with his hundred wenches about him, is in some respect, at least, like the Sultan in his seraglio; and we learn too frequently the influence and effect of such a situation, not only from common fame, but from a multitude of mulattoes、 in countries where slaves are numerous.

"Slavery has a most direct tendency to haughtiness also; and a domineering spirit and conduct in the proprietors of slaves, in their children, and in all who have control of them. A man who has been brought up in domineering over negroes can scarcely avoid contracting such a habit of haughtiness and domination as will express itself in his general treatment of mankind, whether in his private capacity, or any office, civil or military, with which he may be vested. Despotism in economics naturally leads to despotism in politics; and domestic Slavery in a free Government is a perfect solecism in human affairs.

'How baneful all these tendencies and effects of Slavery must be to the public good, and especially to the public good in such a free country as ours, I need not inform you."― Sermons, 1775-99, p. 10.

The following is an extract from a letter written by Washington to Lafayette, dated April 5th, 1783:

"The scheme, my dear Marquis, which you propose as a precedent to encourage the emancipation of the black people in this country, from that state of bondage in which they are held, is a striking evidence of the benevolence of your heart. I shall be happy to join you in so laudable a work, but will defer going into detail of the business until I have the pleasure of seeing you."Sparks' Washington, Vol. VIII, p. 414.

During the session of the Convention at Philadelphia, which framed the Federal Constitution, the last session of the Continental Congress was being held at the city of New York. Many lovers of Freedom in that illustrious body had seriously felt the importance of some national legislation upon the subject of the spread of Slavery into the unorganized Territories lying to the north and west. Especially were the men of the New England States active in this. They had at an early day taken steps to prevent its spread or development within their own limits; and soon after the first importation into Virginia, had pronounced the traffic in men a heinous offense against God. As early as the year 1703, they laid a duty of four pounds (£4) upon each negro imported into the Colony of Massachusetts.

The Congress now in session had seen the impending evil. The black cloud at the South, at first so small, was fast developing into limitless proportions.

Mr. Jefferson's Ordinance, of 1784, had been shorn of its efficiency, by having the clauses prohibiting Slavery stricken out, to please the Democracy.

This Congress had appointed a Committee to provide some remedy for the evil. Nathan Dana, of Massachusetts, was Chairman; and on the 11th day of July, 1787, a plan was reported, promulgating "An Ordinance for the government of Territories of the United States northwest of the Ohio."

Nothing had been said about the Territory south of the Ohio; so that, by making a distinction in this Ordinance, or being silent as to any action in relation to the Southern Territory, it was soon agitated by the Democracy, that this field was to be left open to Slavery.

The following is the Ordinance, Article VI being the only one relating to Slavery:

THE ORDINANCE OF 1787.

Passed by Congress previous to the adoption of the Constitution, and subsequently adopted by Congress, August 7th, 1789, entitled, "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States northwest of the River Ohio.”

ARTICLE VI.-There shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said Territory, otherwise than in punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided always, that any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service, as aforesaid.

Done by the United States in Congress assembled, the thirteenth day of July, in the year of our Lord 1787, and of the Sovereignty and Independence the twelfth.

CHARLES THOMPSON, Secretary

WILLIAM GRAYSON, Chairman.

This Ordinance soon became a great stumbling-block in the road of the Democracy.

Of

After the admission of Ohio, in 1803, the vast territory to the north, known as Indian Territory, began to fill up with settlers from the Slave States. course, they must take their property with them. To this the party of freedom objected, and invoked the stern letter of the Ordinance. William H. Harrison, subsequently President of the United States, being Governor of the Territory, petitioned Congress to suspend the Ordinance, and allow slaves to enter the Territory without hindrance.

Memorials and petitions from the emigrants, with prayers and supplications from Harrison, were constantly before Congress, imploring it to relax the sixth article, and allow them to deal in men. These petitions met with but little success; and soon counter peti

tions were sent to the National Congress by citizens from the Free States, now settling in the Territory.

For four years, the Slave Party agitated the repeal of this Ordinance; but, by the well timed interposition of the friends of freedom, the extensive territory, out of which the States of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin were formed, was dedicated to Freedom.

CHAPTER VI.

MEETING OF FIRST CONGRESS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION.-GEORGE WASHINGTON ELECTED PRESIDENT.-JOHN ADAMS VICE-PRESIDENT.-VOTE AT THE ELECTION.-FIRST BUSINESS OF CONGRESS.-POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT TO REMOVE FROM OFFICE. -DEBATES UPON THE POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT.-TENURE OF CIVIL OFFICE.-AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION.

THE first Congress under the Constitution met at New York, on the 4th day of March, 1789; but not until the 1st of April was a quorum present, and no quorum of the Senate until the 6th. On this day, the credentials of the members present being read and ordered on file, the Senate proceeded by ballot to the choice of a President to preside over that body, for the sole purpose of opening and counting the votes for President of the United States. John Langdon was elected.

The Members of Congress and the Senate assembled in the Senate Chamber, and proceeded to count the vote of the Electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, which was as follows: George Washington, 69; John Adams, 34; Samuel Huntington, 2; John Jay, 9; John Hancock, 4; Robert H. Harrison, 6; George Clinton, 3; John Rutledge, 6; John Milton, 2; James Armstrong, 1; Edward Telfair, 1; Benjamin Lincoln, 1.

George Washington having received all the votes cast, and John Adams the next highest number, were declared President and Vice-President of the United States; and on the 30th of April, the President and Vice-President, attended by the Members of Congress, were joined by the Senators; the Chancellor of New

« PreviousContinue »