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title:“Abraham Baldwin in the House of Representatives”
authors:Abraham Baldwin
date written:1790-2-12

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:57 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Sept. 26, 2022, 12:29 p.m. UTC

Baldwin, Abraham. "Abraham Baldwin in the House of Representatives." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Abraham Baldwin in the House of Representatives (February 12, 1790)

February 12, 1790.
Mr. Baldwin was sorry the subject had ever been brought before Congress, because it was of a delicate nature as it respected some of the States. Gentlemen who had been present at the formation of this Constitution could not avoid the recollection of the pain and difficulty which the subject caused in that body. The members from the Southern States were so tender upon this point, that they had well nigh broken up without coming to any determination; however, from the extreme desire of preserving the Union, and obtaining an efficient Government, they were induced mutually to concede, and the Constitution jealously guarded what they agreed to. If gentlemen look over the footsteps of that body, they will find the greatest degree of caution used to imprint them, so as not to be easily eradicated; but the moment we go to jostle on that ground, I fear we shall feel it tremble under our feet. Congress have no power to interfere with the importation of slaves beyond what is given in the ninth section of the 1st article of the Constitution; everything else is interdicted to them in the strongest terms. If we examine the constitution, we shall find the expressions relative to this subject cautiously expressed, and more punctiliously guarded than any other part, "The migration or importation of such persons shall not be prohibited by Congress." But least this should not have secured the object sufficiently, it is declared, in the same section, "That no capitation or direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census;" this was intended to prevent Congress from laying any special tax upon negro slaves, as they might, in this way, so burthen the possessors of them as to induce a general emancipation. If we go on to the fifth article, we shall find the first and fifth clauses of the ninth section of the first article restrained from being altered before the year 1808.1

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