AFED54: Apportionment And Slavery: Northern And Southern Views
This four part essay shows both northern and southern dissatisfaction with “the Great Compromise”
The first is taken from the third essay of “BRUTUS.”
The second: from the speeches of Rawlins Lowndes to the South Carolina ratifying convention on January 16, 17, and 18, 1788.
The third: from the sixth essay by “CATO.”
The fourth: from an essay by “A GEORGIAN,” appearing in The Gazette of the State of Georgia on November 15, 1787.
“Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included in this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.” What a strange and unnecessary accumulation of words are here used to conceal from the public eye what might have been expressed in the following concise manner: Representatives are to be proportioned among the States respectively, according to the number of freemen and slaves inhabiting them, counting five slaves for three freemen.
“In a free State,” says the celebrated Montesquieu, “every man, who is supposed to be a free agent, ought to be concerned in his own government, therefore the legislature should reside in the whole body of the people, or their representatives.” But it has never been alleged that those who are not free agents can, upon any rational principle, have anything to do in government, either by themselves or others. If they have no share in government, why is the number of members in the assembly to be increased on their account? Is it because in some of the States, a considerable part of the property of the inhabitants consists in a number of their fellow-men, who are held in bondage, in defiance of every idea of benevolence, justice and religion, and contrary to all the principles of liberty which have been publicly avowed in the late Glorious Revolution? If this be a just ground for representation, the horses in some of the States, and the oxen in others, ought to be represented-for a great share of property in some of them consists in these animals; and they have as much control over their own actions as these poor unhappy creatures, who are intended to be described in the above recited clause, by the words, “all other persons.” By this mode of apportionment, the representatives of the different parts of the Union will be extremely unequal; in some of the Southern States the slaves are nearly equal in number to the free men; and for all these slaves they will be entitled to a proportionate share in the legislature; this will give them an unreasonable weight in the government, which can derive no additional strength, protection, nor defense from the slaves, but the contrary. Why, then, should they be represented? What adds to the evil is, that these States are to be permitted to continue the inhuman traffic of importing slaves until the year 1808-and for every cargo of these unhappy people which unfeeling, unprincipled, barbarous and avaricious wretches may tear from their country, friends and tender connections, and bring into those States, they are to be rewarded by having an increase of members in the General Assembly….
. . . . six of the Eastern States formed a majority in the House of Representatives. In the enumeration he passed Rhode Island, and included Pennsylvania. Now, was it consonant with reason, with wisdom, with policy, to suppose, in a legislature where a majority of persons sat whose interests were greatly different from ours, that we had the smallest chance of receiving adequate advantages? Certainly not. He believed the gentlemen that went from this state, to represent us in Convention, possessed as much integrity, and stood as high in point of character, as any gentlemen that could have been selected; and he also believed that they had done every thing in their power to procure for us a proportionate share in this new government; but the very little they had gained proved what we may expect in future-that the interest of the Northern States would so predominate as to divest us of any pretensions to the title of a republic. In the first place, what cause was there for jealousy of our importing Negroes? Why confine us to twenty years, or rather why limit us at all? For his part, he thought this trade could be justified on the principles of religion, humanity, and justice; for certainly to translate a set of human beings from a bad country to a better, was fulfilling every part of these principles. But they don’t like our slaves, because they have none themselves, and therefore want to exclude us from this great advantage. Why should the Southern States allow of this, without the consent of nine states? . . .
We had a law prohibiting the importation of Negroes for three years, a law he greatly approved of; but there was no reason offered why the Southern States might not find it necessary to alter their conduct, and open their ports.
Without Negroes, this state would degenerate into one of the most contemptible in the Union; and he cited an expression that fell from General Pinckney on a former debate, that whilst there remained one acre of swampland in South Carolina, he should raise his voice against restricting the importation of Negroes. Even in granting the importation for twenty years, care had been taken to make us pay for this indulgence, each negro being liable, on importation, to pay a duty not exceeding ten dollars; and, in addition to this, they were liable to a capitation tax. Negroes were our wealth, our only natural resource; yet behold how our kind friends in the north were determined soon to tie up our hands, and drain us of what we had! The Eastern States drew their means of subsistence, in a great measure, from their shipping; and, on that head, they had been particularly careful not to allow of any burdens: they were not to pay tonnage or duties; no, not even the form of clearing out: all ports were free and open to them! Why, then, call this a reciprocal bargain, which took all from one party, to bestow it on the other!
Major [Pierce] BUTLER observed, that they were to pay five per cent impost.
This, Mr. LOWNDES proved, must fall upon the consumer. They are to be the carriers; and, we being the consumers, therefore all expenses would fall upon us. A great number of gentlemen were captivated with this new Constitution, because those who were in debt would be compelled to pay; others pleased themselves with the reflection that no more confiscation laws would be passed; but those were small advantages, in proportion to the evils that might be apprehended from the laws that might be passed by Congress, whenever there was a majority of representatives from the Eastern States, who were governed by prejudices and ideas extremely different from ours. . . .
Great stress was laid on the admirable checks which guarded us, under the new Constitution, from the encroachments of tyranny; but too many checks in a political machine must produce the same mischief as in a mechanical one-that of throwing all into confusion. But supposing we considered ourselves so much aggrieved as to reduce us to the necessity of insisting on redress, what probability had we of relief? Very little indeed. In the revolving on misfortune, some little gleams of comfort resulted from a hope of being able to resort to an impartial tribunal for redress; but pray what reason was there for expectancy that, in Congress, the interest of five Southern States would be considered in a preferable point of view to the nine Eastern ones?
…. the mode of legislation in the infancy of free communities was by the collective body, and this consisted of free persons, or those whose age admitted them to the right of mankind and citizenship, whose sex made them capable of protecting the state, and whose birth may be denominated Free Born; and no traces can be found that ever women, children, and slaves, or those who were not sui juris, in the early days of legislation, met with the free members of the community to deliberate on public measures; hence is derived this maxim in free governments, that representation ought to bear a proportion to the number of free inhabitants in a community; this principle your own state constitution, and others, have observed in the establishment of a future census, in order to apportion the representatives, and to increase or diminish the representation to the ratio of the increase or diminution of electors. But, what aid can the community derive from the assistance women, infants and slaves, in their deliberation, or in their defense? What motives, therefore, could the convention have in departing from just and rational principle of representation, which is the governing prince of this state and of all America?
Article 1, section 2. This section mentions that, within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, an enumeration shall take place, the number of representatives not to exceed one member for every 30,000. This article I believe to be inadmissable. First, it affords to small a representation, (supposing 48 at the highest calculation) and especially in the southern states, their climate, soil, and produce, . . . not being capable of that population as in the northern states. Would it not therefore be better to increase the number of representatives, say one member for every 20,000 for the states north of Virginia, and one for every 15,000 south of the said state, itself included? Or, secondly, divide the states into districts which shall choose the representatives, by which every part of a state will have an equal chance, without being liable to parties or factions? Should it be said it will increase the expense, it will be money well laid out, and the more so if we retain the paying them out of our own bands. And, supposing the voting in the house of representatives was continued as heretofore by states, would it not be more equal still? At any rate I would strenuously recommend to vote by states, and not individually, as it will be accommodating the idea of equality, which should ever be observed in a republican form of government. Or, thirdly, if it was in proportion to the quotas of the states, as rated in taxation, then the number of members would increase with the proportion of tax, and at that rate there would always be an equality in the quota of tax as well as representation; for what chance of equality according to the constitution in question, can a state have that has only one or two votes, when others have eight or ten, (for it is evident that each representative, as well as senator, is meant to have a vote, as it mentions no other mode but in choosing the president), and as it is generally allowed that the United States are divided into two natural divisions, the northern as far as Virginia, the latter included forms the southern? This produces a wide difference in climate, soil, customs, manners of living, and the produce of the land, as well as trade, also in population, to which it is well observed the latter is not so favorable as the former, and never can nor will be, nature itself being the great obstacle. And when taxation is in agitation, as also many other points, it must produce differences in sentiments; and, in such dispute, how is it likely to be decided? According to the mode of voting, the number of members north of Virginia the first three years is 42, and the southern, Virginia included, 23….
Is human nature above self interest? If the northern states do not horde the southern in taxation, it would appear then really that they are more disinterested men than we know of.
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