Imágenes de páginas

that the citizens of eaca Dlate shall

has provided be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of the several States.” It cannot escape notice, that no definition of the nature and rights of citizens, appears in the Constitution. The descriptive term is used, with a plain indication that its meaning is understood by all; and this indeed is the general character of the whole instrument. Except in one instance it gives no definitions, but it acts in all parts on qualities and relations supposed to be already known. See Rawle on the Constitution, 85, 61. What then is the meaning of the term citizen, so often used in the Constitution? The President must be a natural born citizen—a Senator must have been nine years a citizen-a Representative a citizen seven years, etc. The term, when com. monly used by political writers, means all those who owe allegiance and receive correspondent protection from the government, and who have an unqualified right to the enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of society, except when those rights are suspended for a time, in consequence of the commission of crimes. Now, if an unqualified right to the enjoyment of all those privileges be the criterion of citizenship, it will be easily perceived that free persons , of color, chiefly, residing in the Southern States, were not intended to be included as such by the framers of the Constitution. There are three degrees of slavery-political, civil and domestic. The first existed in America before the revolution, the last now exists in relation to our slaves, whilst civil slavery is the condition of free negroes and mulattoes, whose civil incapacities are almost as numerous as the civil rights of our free citizens. These civil incapacities, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, no doubt varied in the different States, greater and more numerous in some than in others. Still, in no one State whatever, did they enjoy all the privileges of white men: They were forbidden from intermarrying with the whites; they could not preside as judges, nor serve as jurors, nor give evidence against white men.

In but few were they entitled to suffrage of any kind, or capable of filling any office whatever. Now, who can believe that the framers of the Constitution intended to exalt persons, subject to so many disabilities in the several States, believe, with the slightest knowledge and remembrance of these times, that the convention intended to sweep away all the laws of the several States and impose on the citizens thereof, terms of equality in rights and civil associations, equally forbidden by the difference of color and the confirmed habits of nearly a whole country ? Such a construction of the term citizen is forbidden by the fact, that for more than fifty years since the adoption of the Constitution, the same disabilities have been continued, with such alterations only as the State Legislatures from time to time have thought proper to make. The plain and obvious use of the term should therefore, as we conceive, be confined to the free white population of the United States, whose rights and liberties were everywhere the samesubject to no stint or limitation whatsoever. Still, however, it is not intended, nor necessary to assert, that free persons of color are in no respect to be considered as citizens of the General Government, If carried away into captivity by a foreign enemy, or illegally impressed on the high seas, the Government would have a right to demand them. If the scanty rights already secured to them should ever be violated, the judicial tribunals of the States, as well as those of the national government, in a case where it could take jurisdiction, should be bound to give them relief. All that is meant to be asserted on this subject is, that they are not meant by, nor included as citizens, under that clause of the Constitution which secures to each the rights and immunities of the several States. Besides what has been heretofore urged, it may be further added, that the term citizen, in this clause, and many other parts of the Constitution, seems to be used only in opposition to the word alien, and that its only meaning was to prevent the several States from establishing systems of naturalization for themselves different from that of the General Government.

In ordinary cases, the slightest doubt of the constitutionality of our power should withhold our enactments; but in such a one as this, where self-preservation is the supreme and paramount law of nature, nothing short of a direct and manifest infraction of that sacred instrument should induce as to withhold that protection and safety so imperiously demanded by to control and regulate any course which might excite or produce it, as to guard against any other evil, political or physical.

If a generous philanthropy should enquire, where this unfortunate race shall find a home when all the States shall have excluded and driven them out, the American Colonization Society, with the probable co-operation of the government, will point to Sierra Leone and Liberia, as the future residence of this devoted people.

Under a review of the whole subject, your committee beg leave to recommend the passage of the bill, with certain amendments to its provisions, to be designated by their Chairman. All of which is respectsully submitted.


[ocr errors]

AN ARGUMENT, Against Capital punishments, reported by order of the Judiciary

Committee, in support of a bill abolishing such punishments as to all free persons in the State of Tennessee.

INTRODUCTION. Vanity itself, however great, could hardly induce us to expect to supersede the labors of Montesquieu, Rush, Beccaria and

many others, against the improper infliction of capital punishments. We must entirely mistake the foundation of our own learning, and, in a good degree, the sources of our own humane and benevolent feelings, were we not to admit to the fullest extent, the high claims of those distinguished and eloquent advocates in the cause of humanity. They have, however, in writing on many other subjects, condensed their views and arguments on this one, into the small compass of a single chapter, without taking time to enlarge, illustrate and enforce it. This brevity has no doubt arisen from a conviction, that errors accumulated through so many generations, and supported by so many passions of the human heart, could never be overturned. Results, though they have not realized all the hopes of the benevolent, have, by no means, corresponded with their despondence. Next to the general diffusion of knowledge, and the wide extension of religious principles, the enlightened humanity of the age is to be attributed to their generous exertions. They planted the root of that tree whose blossom is now so pleasant to look upon, but whose full maturity must be expected at some future period.

If, in making this further effort in behalf of the few against not so much regret our want of success in writing, as we will long deplore the infatuation of society, in continuing to shed the blood of so many human beings. We do not aim entirely at originality; our sole object being to reform society in its habits of thinking and feeling on this important subject, every thing we have either read or heard, which is considered valuable, will be brought forward and insisted on; hence, it should be regarded more as a mere compilation, than an original production.

If men were like the trees of the forest, that die and fall and return to dust again, or, if after death they vanish into eternal insensibility as though they had never been, we would not thus earnestly complain of their destruction. The toils and perplexities of life would then often make it desirable to return to that gross element out of which chance or destiny had formed them.

He who would pierce their clay tenement with a dagger, or destroy it with a pistol, would often perform the highest act of kindness and love. · But their souls are immortal, their spirits have been despatched by the great father of spirits on a pilgrimage to earth; their happiness or misery through eternity, depends on their moral state or condition when leaving the world. Who shall say when that pilgrimage shall close ? Shall poor mortal man, himself a pilgrim, shuddering every moment of his life at the dreadful accountability which awaits his own soul, shall he fix the awful period when the spirit of his frail brother-child of the dust, shall return to him who gave it ?Surely He, and He alone, knows best when to recall them, who sent them forth, and whose high purposes they were intended to accomplish. The responsibility of extinguishing human life, is the greatest that can be incurred on this side of eternity. This responsibility may be parcelled out amongst so many individuals--the Legislators, the judges and jurors of the country, that none may be able to feel and realize its full weight; yet all should remember that it still continues to exist somewhere; and that every drop of human blood, wrongfully shed, will continue to cry from the ground like Abel's, until Heaven shall

« AnteriorContinuar »