CHAPTER 15 | Document 22

Return of Sutton, Massachusetts

18 May 1778Handlin 231--32

The four first Articles we don't object against.

But the V Article appears to us to wear a very gross complextion of slavery; and is diametrically repugnant to the grand and Fundamental maxim of Humane Rights; viz. "That Law to boind all must be assented to by all." which this Article by no means admits of, when it excludes free men, and men of property from a voice in the Elections of Representatives; Negroes etc. are excluded even tho they are free and men of property. This is manifestly ading to the already acumulated Load of guilt lying upon the Land in supporting the slave trade when the poor innocent Affricans who never hurt or offered any Injury or Insult to this country have been so unjustly assaulted inhumanely Murdered many of them; to make way for stealing others, and then cruelly brought from their native Land, and sold here like Beasts and yet now by this constitution, if by any good Providence they or any of their Posterity, obtain their Freedom and a handsome estate yet they must excluded the Privileges of Men! this must be the bringing or incurring more Wrath upon us. And it must be thought more insulting tho not so cruel, to deprive the original Natives of the Land the Privileges of Men. We also cant but observe that by this Article the Convention had in contemplation of having many more slaves beside the Poor Africans, when they say of others beside; being Free and 21 years old

We therefore think that we ought to have an Article expressive of what the State is to consist of. And to say in express Terms that every person within the State 21 years of Age shall have a sole absolute Property in himself and all his earnings having an exclusive Right to make all manner contracts, and shall so Remain until they are rendered non compos Mentis by lawful Authority, or have forfeited their Freedom by misdemeanour and so adjudged by Authority proper to try the same; or their service legally disposed of for the discharge of some Debt Damage or Trespass. And then that every Male Inhabitant free as afforesaid etc. Provided that Men who lie a Burden upon the publick or have little or no Property ought not to have a full or equal Vote with those that have an estate, in voting for a Representative, for then a Representative may be chosen without any property, and as the proposed Constitution stands there is all the chance that could be wished, for designing mischevious. Men to purchase themselves seats in the House; for poor, shiftless spendthrifty men and inconsiderate youngsters that have no property are cheap bought (that is) their votes easily procured Choose a Representative to go to court, to vote away the Money of those that have Estates; and the Representative with all his constitutents or Voters not pay so much Taxes as one poor Negro, Indian or Molatto that is not allowed to put in a single vote. Perhaps if all under what used to be voters for Representatives; were reconed each Vote equal to half one of the old voters it might be about a just and proper Medium. It is farther to be observed that this Article is grossly inconsistant with the XIV which provides that all Money Bills or Acts for levying and granting Money shall originate solely in the House and not be subject to any amendment, by the Senate; when the Representatives are chosen by Persons of no Property, and there must be sixty Pounds clear Estate to vote for a Governor or Senator. If men of no Property might vote for any part of the Legislature and not the whole; it ought to be that part of the Legislature which are under the greatest Restraints as to Money Bills Acts or Resolves.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 15, Document 22
The University of Chicago Press

Handlin, Oscar, and Handlin, Mary, eds. The Popular Sources of Political Authority: Documents on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1966.

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