Luther Martin's address:
They were also called on to inform us what security they could give us, should we agree to this compromise, that they would abide by the plan of government formed upon it any longer than suited their interests, or they found it expedient.
"The states have a right to an equality of representation. This is secured to us by our present Articles of Confederation ; we are in possession of this right. It is now to be torn from us. What security can you give us that, when you get the power the proposed system will give you, when you have men and money, you will not force from the states that equality of suffrage, in the second branch, which you now deny to be their right, and only give up from absolute necessity? Will you tell us we ought to trust you because you now enter into a solemn compact with us? This you have done before, and note treat with the utmost contempt. Will you now make an appeal to the Supreme Being, and call on him to guaranty your observance of this compact? The same you have formerly dune for your observance of the Articles of Confederation, which you are now violating in the most wanton manner."
"The same reason which you now urge, for destroying our present federal government, may be urged for abolishing the system you propose to adopt; and as the method prescribed by the Articles of Confederation is now totally disregarded by you, as little regard may be shown by you to the rules prescribed for the amendment of the new system, whenever, having obtained power by the government, you shall hereafter be pleased to discard it entirely, or so to alter it as to give yourselves all that superiority which you have now contended for, and to obtain which you have shown yourselves disposed to hazard the Union."
—Such, sir, was the language used on that occasion ; and they were told that, as we could not possibly have a stronger tie on them for the observance of the new system than we had for their observance of the Articles of Confederation, (which had proved totally insufficient,) it would be wrong and imprudent to confide in them...
... By the ninth section of this article, the importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight; but a duty may be imposed on such importation not exceeding ten dollars each person.
The design of this clause is to prevent the general government from prohibiting the importation of slaves; but the same reasons which caused them to strike out the word " national" and not admit the word " stamps," influenced them here to guard against the word " slaves." They anxiously sought to avoid the admission of expressions which might be odious in the ears of Americans, although they were willing to admit into their system those things which the expressions signified ; and hence it is that the clause is so worded as really to authorize the general government to impose a duty of ten dollars on every foreigner who comes into a state to become a citizen, whether he comes absolutely free, or qualifiedly so as a servant; although this is contrary to the design of the framers, and the duty was only meant to extend to the importation of slaves.
This clause was the subject of a great diversity of sentiment in the Convention. As the system was reported by the committee of detail, the provision was general, that such importation should not be prohibited, without confining it to any particular period. This was rejected by eight states—Georgia, South Carolina, and, I think, North Carolina, voting for it.
We were then told by the delegates of the two first of those states, that their states would never agree to a system which put it in the power of the general government to prevent the importation of slaves, and that they, as delegates from those states, must withhold their assent from such a system.
A committee of one member from each state was chosen by ballot, to take this part of the system under their consideration, and to endeavor to agree upon some report which should reconcile those states. To this committee also was referred the following proposition, which had been reported by the committee of detail, viz.: " No navigation act shall be passed without the assent of two thirds of the members present in each house" — a proposition which the staple and commercial states were solicitous to retain, lest their commerce should be placed too much under the power of the Eastern States, but which these last states were as anxious to reject. This committee — of which also I had the honor to be a member—met, and took under their consideration the subjects committed to them. I found the Eastern States, notwithstanding their aversion to slavery, were very willing to indulge the Southern States at least with a temporary liberty to prosecute the slave trade, provided the Southern States would, in their turn, gratify them, by laying no restriction on navigation acts; and after a very little time, the committee, by a great majority, agreed on a report, by which the general government was to be prohibited from preventing the importation of slaves for a limited time, and the restrictive clause relative to navigation acts was to be omitted...
...By the principles of the Americin revolution, arbitrary power may, and ought to, be resisted even by arms, if necessary. The time may come when it shall be the duty of a st;>te, in order to preserve itself from the oppression of the general government, to have recourse to the sword; in which case, the proposed form of government declares, that the state, and every one of its citizens who acts under its authority, are guilty of a direct act of treason; reducing, by this provision, the different states to this alternative,— that they must tamely and passively yield to despotism, or their citizens must oppose it at the hazard of the halter, if unsuccessful; and reducing the citizens of the state whieh-shall take arms to a situation in which they must be exposed to punishment, let them act as they will — since, if they obey the authority of their state government, they will be guilty of treason against the Unitrd States; if they join the general government, they will be guilty of treason against their own state.
To save the citizens of the respective states from this disagreeable dilemma, and to secure them from being punishable as traitors to the United States, when acting expressly in obedience to the authority of their own state, I wished to have obtained, as an amendment to the third section of this article, the following chuse: —
" Provided, That no act or acts done by one or more of the states against the United States, or by any citizen of any one of the United States, under the authority of one or more of the said states, shall ba deemed treason, or punished as such; but in case of war being levied by one or more of the states against the United States, the conduct of each party towards the other, and their adherents respectively, shall be regulated by the laws of war and of nations."
But this provision was not adopted, being too much opposed to the great object of many of the leading members of the Convention, which was, by all means to leave the states at the mercy of the general government, since they could not succeed in their immediate and eutire abolition...