Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1

[Volume 3, Page 284]

Document 7

A Countryman

13 Dec. 1787Storing 6.7.5--6

There is another thing, in this new constitution, that my neighbour and me, have talked a good deal about; it is what is called in the writings you sent me, article 9th, section 1st. Indeed, we hardly know what they will be at by this; for fear you should mistake me, I believe I had better write it down; they say, "the migration, or importation of such persons, as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the congress, prior to the year 1808, but a tax, or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person."

Now we think it very hard, if that is their meaning, that they should make every man, that comes from the old countries here, pay ten dollars to the new government. A great many of us, have our relations in the North of Ireland, and other places, that were very good friends to us all the war, and gave a great deal of trouble to the British, and I believe, partly upon our accounts, who might wish to come and settle here, among us; and I am sure they would be of great service to us, but do not you think it would be a hard matter for them to pay for their passages, besides their other expences, ten hard dollars for themselves, and each person in their families, when they get to this country. But our old neighbour from Pennsylvania, says, that it is thought among them, to mean worse than this, that its true meaning, is to give leave to import negroes from Guinea, for slaves, to work upon the rich men's plantations, to the southward; but that it is not mentioned plainly on purpose, because the quakers, and a great many other good religious people, are very much against making slaves of our fellow-creatures, and especially, against suffering any more to be brought into the country, and this, if it was known, might make them all against the new government: now, if this is really the case, it is to be sure, much worse than my neighbour and me first thought it to [Volume 3, Page 285] be; for all good christians must agree, that this trade is an abomination to the Lord, and must, if continued, bring down a heavy judgment upon our land. It does not seem to be justice, that one man should take another from his own country, and make a slave of him; and yet we are told by this new constitution, that one of its great ends, is to establish justice; alas! my worthy friend, it is a serious thing to trifle with the great God; his punishments are slow, but always sure; and the cunning of men, however deep, cannot escape them. I well remember, that our congress (and I believe, as I mentioned before, that they were honest, good men who meant as they said) when they declared independence, solemnly said, that "all men were created equal; and that they were endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; and that among them, are these, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." They also talked much about the sacredness of a trial by jury; and complained loudly, that the old government tried to hinder the peopleing of this country, by discourageing people to come here from the old countries; and for these, and other causes, they went to war, after making a solemn appeal to God, for the rectitude of their intentions; and even the infidel must confess, that God was remarkably with us, watched over us in the hour of danger, fought our battles, and subdued our enemies, and finally gave us success. Alas! my good friend, it is a terrible thing to mock the almighty, for how can we expect to merit his favor, or escape his vengeance; if it should appear, that we were not serious in our professions, and that they were mere devices to gratify our pride and ambition, we ought to remember, he sees into the secret recesses of our hearts, and knows what is passing there. It becomes us then to bear testimony against every thing which may be displeasing in his sight, and be careful that we incur not the charge mentioned by the prophet Hosea, "ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies, because thou didst trust in thy ways, in the multitude of thy mighty men."

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1, Document 7
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

© 1987 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2000