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The Slave Power

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The Philanthropist is publishing a part of the debates in the Convention that formed the Constitution in 1737. The Convention readily agreed that the National Legislature should be composed of two houses of delegates: but how they should be chosen, and how many each State should send, was a question not so easily settled, and one, too, that must meet them at the very threshold of their deliberations. Colonel Hamilton of New York, moved that "the rights of suffrage in the national Legislature ought to be proportioned to the number of free inhabitants." Mr. Wílson of Pennsylvania, seconded by Mr. Pinckney of South Carolina, afterwards proposed the three-fifths provision as it now stands. The three-fifths rule had been previously adopted by eleven States, for apportioning contributions among the States, under the Continental Congress. - Hence it was natural that it be suggested on this occasion. Mr. Gerry of Massachussetts, opposed this, asking "why should the blacks, who wore property at the South, be in the rule of representation, more than the cattle and horses of the North?" In the discussion June 30, Mr Madison contended "that the States were divided into different interests, not by difference of size, but by other circumstances: the most material of which resulted partly from climate, but principally from the effects of their having or not having slaves."- We see by this testimony that slavery as source of discord from the very foundation of the government. A committee having proposed that the national Legislature should have authority from time to time, to re-apportion the representatives upon the principles of the wealth and number of inhabitants in the States. Mr. Patterson, of New Jersey opposed the motion as too vague, "He could regard negro slaves in no other light but as property. They are no free agents, have no personal liberty, no facility for acquiring property, and like other property, were entirely at the will of the master. Has a man in Virginia a number of votes in proportion to the number of his slaves? and if negroes are not represented in the States to which they belong, why should they be represented in the general Government? What is the true principles of representation? It is an expedient by which an assembly of certain individuals, chosen by the people, is substituted in the place of the inconvenient meeting of the people themselves. If such a meeting of the people was actually to take place would the slaves vote? They would not. Why then should they be represented? He was also against such an indirect encouragement of the slave trade." Mr. Butler, of Georgia, "urged warmly the justice and necessity of regarding wealth, in the apportionment of representation." Mr. Pinckney of South Carolina, "dwelt on the superior wealth of the Southern States and insisted on its having its due weight in the government." Mr. Butler and General Pinckney, ''insisted that blacks be included in the rule of representation EQUALLY with the whites, and for that purpose moved that the word "three-fifths" be struck out." Mr. Gerry of (Massachusetts,) thought that three-fifths of them was, to say the least, the full proportion that could be admitted. Mr. Gorham, (of Massachusetts.) This ratio was fixed by Congress, as a rule of taxation. Then it was urged by the delegates, representing the states having slaves, that the blacks were still more inferior to freemen. At present when the ratio of representation was to be established, we are assured that they are equal to freemen. The arguments on the former occasion had convinced him, that three-fifths was pretty near the just proportion, and he should vote according to the same opinion now. On the motion for considering blacks equal to whites in apportioning the representation, only three States voted for it, Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia. In a subsequent debate, General Pinkney desired that the rule of wealth should be ascertained, and not left to the pleasure of the Legislature; and that property in slaves should not be exposed to danger under a government instituted for the protection of property. The Philanthropist remarks: "We wish the reader distinctly to perceive the ground, on which this kind of representation was continually claimed by the slaveholder: he demanded it, as a security for his slaveproperty. At this day, twenty five representatives in Congress, stand here, simply as sentinels over this species of property."