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Abraham Lincoln by George Haven Putnam

And insert the words the year 1808

[Footnote 37:--We subjoin a portion of the history alluded to by Mr. Lincoln. The following extract relates to the provision of the Constitution relative to the slave trade. (Article I, Sec. 9.)

_25th August_, 1787.--The report of the Committee of eleven being taken up, Gen. [Charles Cotesworth] Pinckney moved to strike out the words "the year 1800," and insert the words "the year 1808."

Mr. Gorham seconded the motion.

Mr. Madison--Twenty years will produce all the mischief that can be apprehended from the liberty to import slaves. So long a term will be more dishonorable to the American character than to say nothing about it in the Constitution.

* * * * *

Mr. Gouverneur Morris was for making the clause read at once--

"The importation of slaves into North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, shall not be prohibited," etc. This, he said, would be most fair, and would avoid _the _ ambiguity by which, under the power with regard to naturalization, the liberty reserved to the States might be defeated. He wished it to be known, also, that this part of the Constitution was a compliance with those States. If the change of language, however, should be objected to by the members from those States, he should not urge it.

Col. Mason (of Virginia) was not against using the term "slaves," but against naming North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, lest it should give offence to the people of those States.

Mr. Sherman liked a description better than the terms proposed, which had been declined by the old Congress and were not pleasing to some people.

Mr. Clymer concurred with Mr. Sherman.

Mr. Williamson, of North Carolina, said that _both in opinion and practice he was against slavery; but thought it more in favor of humanity, from a view of all circumstances, to let in South Carolina and Georgia, on those terms, than to exclude them from the Union_.

Mr. Morris withdrew his motion.

Mr. Dickinson wished the clause to be confined to the States which had not themselves prohibited the importation of slaves, and for that purpose moved to amend the clause so as to read--

"The importation of slaves into such of the States as shall permit the same, shall not be prohibited by the Legislature of the United States, until the year 1808," which was disagreed to, _nem. con_.

The first part of the report was then agreed to as follows:

"The migration or importation of such persons as the several States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Legislature prior to the year 1808."

* * * * *

Mr. Sherman was against the second part ["but a tax or duty may be imposed on such migration or importation at a rate not exceeding _the average of the duties laid on imports_"], as acknowledging men to be property by taxing them as such under the _character_ of slaves.

* * * * *

Mr. Madison _thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the like idea that there could be property in men_. The reason of duties did not hold, as slaves _are not, like merchandise_, consumed.

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