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CHAPTER IX.

THE CONSTITUTION OF 1834-Continued.

1835-1870.

The journal of the Convention of 1834 is of great interest and value, revealing as it does, the state of popular opinion upon almost every conceivable public question of importance. Every section of the revised Constitution seems to have been considered, discussed, and voted upon, at least, three times. This method resulted in a session of three months, and allowed the members the fullest opportunity for deliberating and for revising their work.

Among the more interesting matters considered was emancipation. The slavery question did not become one of paramount importance in federal politics until about the year 1849, but, in 1831, an insurrection of negroes in Virginia had caused great public excitement and in 1832 an anti-slavery convention had been held in Philadelphia. During the sitting of the Convention of 1834, opposition to the abolitionists produced serious outbreaks of disorder in the city of New York, and Garrison was at that time just entering upon his strenuous career as an agitator.

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In Tennessee, emancipation societies had been organized as early as 1809.1

In 1819, Elihu Embree had begun the publication of his anti-slavery paper, “ The Manumission Intelli

gence,” at Jonesboro, and in 1822, Benjamin Lundy seems to have found Tennessee better adapted than Ohio to the propagation of abolition sentiment, for in that year he removed from Ohio to Greeneville, Tennessee, where he established the "Genius of Universal Emancipation,” a publication whose title avoids any doubt of its purpose.?

In certain instances the Legislation of North Carolina before the cession, and of Tennessee after that event, had been antagonistic to slave traders. In the year before the meeting of the Federal Convention, North Carolina imposed a heavy duty on the importation of slaves, and made it unlawful to import them from free States.

In 1812, and in 1826, Tennessee forbade the importation of slaves to be sold as merchandise.

During the first three decades of the 19th century the Quakers and the Presbyterians were relatively more numerous and influential in Tennessee than afterwards, and were, usually, pronounced opponents

1Letter of the late John Caldwell, of Jefferson county, Tennessee, now in the writer's possession.

2“East Tennessee and the Civil War,” by O. P. Temple, pages 91-92.

3 Acts of North Carolina, 1786, chapter V.

4 Acts of Tennessee, 1812, chapter LXXXVIII; Acts of Tennessee, 1826, chapter XXII.

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of slavery, and the higher tribunals of the rapidly growing Methodist church held and declared the same opinions. Thus, while there had been up to this time, no definite movement of serious import, against slavery in Tennessee, there existed a strong body of opinion against it, and there was every reason why the Convention should have expected to have the subject brought to its attention. At all events it was presented promptly, on the 24th of May, the 6th day of the Convention, when Mr. Cahal introduced a petition of sundry citizens of Maury county, in Middle Tennessee, on the subject of emancipation."

From that time the journal abounds in references to emancipation and slavery. On the 18th of June, Willie Blount submitted a resolution providing that the Legislature should have no power or authority to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of their owners, and without paying to the owners previous to such emancipation a full equivalent: and that on the general subject of emancipation it should have no power whatever.

On the 19th of June, a committee, which had been appointed at an earlier date for the purpose of formulating the reasons that actuated the Convention in declining to consider memorials on the subject of emancipation, presented a long and eloquent report, covering more than six closely printed pages.?

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5 Journal, Constitutional Convention, 1834, page 26. 6 Journal, Constitutional Convention, 1834, page 85. 7 Journal, Constitutional Convention, 1834, page 87.

In the beginning it was a severe arraignment of slavery, declaring that, "the committee does not understand the Convention as denying the truth of the proposition which asserts that slavery is an evil; to prove it to be a great evil is an easy task, but to tell how that evil may be removed is a question which the wisest heads and most benevolent hearts have been unable to answer in a satisfactory manner.” The second sentence admits that "fleecy locks and a black complexion mark every one of the African race, and so long as he remains among white men, he is a person doomed to dwell in the suburbs of society.” Again, it is said, “but the friends of humanity need not despair; the memorialists need not dread that slavery will be perpetual in our highly favored country; Providence has already opened the door of hope which is every day opening wider and wider. On the coast of Africa, the foundation of a mighty empire is already laid, and thither the sons and daughters of Africa, made free by the sons of their masters, and transported by the funds furnished by the benevolent, shall repair, and carrying with them the blessings of civilization, and the truths and consolations of christianity, they will in process of time, baņish idolatry, ignorance, and superstition from that wretched land which has been so long the habitation of horrid cruelties." The committee declared that the last thirty years had produced a great change in public sentiment upon the subject of slavery, and that it was not to be

doubted that the next thirty years would produce a still greater one, a prediction that was strikingly fulfilled. Referring to the abolitionists the committee said, “If misguided fanatics in those parts of the United States where slavery does not exist, will only refrain from intermeddling in a matter in which they have no concern, and in which their interference can do no possible good, and may do much positive evil, slavery with all its ills will be extinguished as certainly and as speedily as the friends of humanity have any reason to expect. In conclusion it declared that “A premature attempt on the part of the benevolent to get rid of the evil of slavery would certainly have the effect of postponing to a far distant day the accomplishment of an event devoutly and ardently desired by the wise and good in every part of our beloved country.

But while the report thus declared slavery to be a great evil, and abolition an event ardently desired by the wise and good, it advised against interference with the institution on the ground of inexpediency, and on account of the injury which it affirmed would result necessarily to the negroes. It would be impossible to believe that sentiments so antagonistic to slavery were expressed in this Convention if we were unmindful of the fact that the agitation, of the subject, in politics, had only begun in the North, and had not yet extended to the South, and that there had been no

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8Journal, Constitutional Convention, 1834, page 93.

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