« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
The first section in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of
Pennsylvania, so amended as to abolish slavery.-Act to prevent the transportation of negroes and mulattoes out of the State.-Second section in the Bill of Rights amended. -Ministerial acts.-Fifteenth section amended.
We are now prepared for an examination of our first Constitution as established by the Convention. We shall at present call the attention of the reader to those few sections of our Constitution which were formed by making some additions to certain sections of the constitution of Pennsylvania. The reader has seen that the framers of our Constitution took the first Constitution of Pennsylvania as a model, and that they made but very few additions to it, but their attention was arrested by the first section in the Bill of Rights. They were satisfied that it contained a declaration of all the natural rights of man, but they saw a portion of their fellow citizens deprived of every one of these rights, and they determined that those rights should be restored to them, and that they should be protected in the enjoyment of them by the Constitution. Pennsylvania had only made a declaration of those rights, and left it to the legislature to secure all classes in the enjoyment of them, and they did it. Some other states made the same declaration, but afterwards treated it as a perfect nullity, and it had no effect except as a proclamation to the world that when they stripped one class of their fellow beings of all their natural rights, they sinned against light and knowledge. But the framers of our Constitution, governed by the principles of the natural law, were of course consistent, and did their work thoroughly by making the following addition to the section :
Therefore, no male person, born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holder by law, to serve any person, as a servant, slave or apprentice, after he arrives at the age of twentyone years, nor female, in like manner, after she arrives at the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent, after they arrive at such age, or bound by law, for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.
Every Vermonter has reason to be proud of this-his own State was the first to abolish Slavery by the Constitution.
It has been said that the soil of Vermont was never polluted by Slavery, but this is a mistake ; there was Slavery in all the New England Colonies, and some of the slaveholders moved into the Grants and brought their slaves with them. The following act proves this, as well as the vigilance of the Legislature in protecting all classes of their fellow-citizens in the enjoyment of their natural and constitutional rights. AN ACT to prevent the sale and transportation of
Negroes and Mulattoes out of this State.
Whereas, by the constitution of this State, all the subjects of this commonwealth, of whatever colour, are equally entitled to the inestimable blessings of freedom, unless they have forfeited the same by the commission of some crime; and the idea of slavery is expressly and totally exploded from our free government ;
And whereas, instances have happened of the former owners of Negro slaves in this commonwealth, making sale of such persons as slaves, notwithstanding their being liberated by the Constitution; and attempts been made to transport such persons to foreign parts, in open violation of the laws of the land;
Be it therefore enacted, fc. that if any person shall, hereafter, make sale of any subject of this State, or shall convey, or attempt to convey, any subject out of this State, with intent to hold or sell such person as a slave ; every person so offending, and convicted thereof, shall forfeit and pay to the persons injured, for such offence, the sum of one hundred pounds, and cost of suit; to be recovered by action of debt, complaint, or information,
The second section of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of Pennsylvania also arrested the attention of the framers of our Constitution.
They had less confidence in that section because it came from that Quaker State, and because the Convention who framed that Constitution, sat and did business on the Sabbath as well as on week days. They were pleased with the section, as it contained a declaration of the right of religious liberty, the rights of conscience, but they were fearful that this religious liberty would be somewhat larger than that to which the people of NewEngland had been accustomed. And they justly considered, that it was necessary to adapt the Constitution to the religious sentiments, habits and customs of the people of the State.
In all the colonies of New-England, with the exception of Rhode Island, the towns had been authorized by the Colonial Legislatures to tax the inhabitants for building meeting-houses and the support of preaching. And as there was a majority in the several towns of the Congregational order, the practical operation of the law was to empower that order to tax, and they did tax the minor sects to aid them in building their meeting. houses and supporting ministers. Laws had also
been enacted and executed, to enforce a due observation of the Sabbath. And as it was seen that the people were eminently religious, and it being admitted by all that none but a religious people could support our free institutions, they were fearful of any change in the laws for the support of religion. But the minds of men were at that time in a transition state, as to their views of religious liberty; they had more enlarged and just views of it than their puritan fathers.
The Puritans considered that religious liberty belonged only to the true church, and consisted in a power to punish hereticks and compel all to embrace the true religion. Entertaining these views they could not but think it right to tax them for the support of that religion. But the principle of liberty and equality which lies at the foundation of our free institutions, had wrought a change in the minds of men respecting religious liberty, and the ecclesiastical government was becoming more analogous to the civil government. It has ever been so ; that strong propensity to analogy in man which is discovered in all departments of life has rendered ecclesiastical governments through the world analogous to civil governments. And these two governments generally, after some