Slavery and the Constitution, 1790
A Plain Planter, begs leave to ask his Fellow Citizens a few Questions.
Did you authorise your Representatives in Congress, when you elected them, to violate any part of the Constitution?
If they have done so in one instance have you not every reason to apprehend that they may do so in others?
Was not the Quaker's memorial for the abolition of the slave trade in direction opposition to the 9th section of the first article of the Constitution?
After receiving that memorial then and giving it a fair hearing for the sake of decency and uniformity of practice, ought not the question for referring it to a Committee to have been rejected, as a question not Constitutionally cognizable by Congress?
But did not some of your Representatives vote, in defiance of the Constitution, for referring it to the ticklish and irritating discussion of a Committee?
Were not the debates upon that occasion dangerous and impolitic?
Have they not excited doubts and fears, alarms and apprehensions thro' all the southern states?
Ought they not to have been prevented if possible? and was it not an easy thing to have prevented them by adhering to the Constitution and rejecting the reference of the memorial?
May they not do mischief, in the end, by exciting a degree of insolence in our slaves bordering perhaps on resistance?
Do you not consider this memorial as the first step towards a general emancipation?
If so, ought it not to have been stopped in the beginning?
Would you not rather crush this crocodile in its egg than suffer it to grow up into the size of a monster and devour you?
If an word, my fellow citizens, if it were right to commit and debate this question concerning slaves, which the Constitution forbade them to touch, might they not, with equal propriety, commit and debate a petition for a Church establishment or for septennial instead of biennial elections, or for any other anti-constitutional absurdity? Do you approve of the practice, introduced by some of your Representatives in Congress, of procuring certificates, from the members of other states, to justify their conduct to their Constituents?
If this new fashion be continued and tolerated, may not the people of the United States be kept in eternal darkness?
For may not the members of different states play into each others hands by exchanging certificates, whenever occasion may require it, to favor their respective elections?