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title:“Pinckney: Speech in South Carolina House of Representatives”
authors:Charles Pinckney
date written:1788-1-17

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:05 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Feb. 26, 2024, 7:12 a.m. UTC

Pinckney, Charles. "Pinckney: Speech in South Carolina House of Representatives." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Pinckney: Speech in South Carolina House of Representatives (January 17, 1788)

Thursday, January, 1788.
. . . But now that the senators vote individually, and not by states, each state will be anxious to keep a full representation in the Senate; and the Senate has now power to compel the attendance of its own members.1 We shall thus have no delay, and business will be conducted in a fuller representation of the states than it hitherto has been. All the members of the Convention, who had served in Congress, were so sensible of the advantage attending this mode of voting, that the measure was adopted unanimously. For my own part, I think it infinitely preferable to the old method. . . .
. . . Every state in the Union, except Rhode Island, was so thoroughly convinced that our government was inadequate to our situation, that all, except her, sent members to the Convention at Philadelphia. General Pinckney said, it had been alleged that, when there, they exceeded their powers. He thought not. They had a right, he apprehended, to propose any thing which they imagined would strengthen the Union, and be for the advantage of our country; but they did not pretend to a right to determine finally upon any thing. . . .
Every member who attended the Convention, was, from the beginning, sensible of the necessity of giving greater powers to the federal government. This was the very purpose for which they were convened. The delegations of Jersey and Delaware were, at first, averse to this organization; but they afterwards acquiesced in it; and the conduct of their delegates has been so very agreeable to the people of these states, that their repsective conventions have unanimously adopted the Constitution. As we have found it necessary to give very extensive powers to the federal government both over the persons and estates of the citizens, we thought it right to draw one branch of the legislature immediately from the people, and that both wealth and numbers should be considered in the representation. We were at a loss, for some time, for a rule to ascertain the proportionate wealth of the states. At last we thought that the productive labor of the inhabitants was the best rule for ascertaining their wealth. In conformity to this rule, joined to a spirit of concession, we determined that representatives should be apportioned among the several states, by adding to the whole number of free persons three fifths of the slaves.2 We thus obtained a representation for our property; and I confess I did not expect that we had conceded too much to the Eastern States, when they allowed us a representation for a species of property which they have not among them.
The numbers in the different states, according to the most accurate accounts we could obtain, were —
In New Hampshire, 102,000 Massachusetts, 360,000 Rhode Island, 58,000 Connecticut, 202,000 New York, 233,000 New Jersey, 138,000 Pennsylvania, 360,000 Delaware, 37,000 Maryland, (including three fifths of 80,000 negroes,) 218,000 Virginia, (including three-fifths of 280,000 negroes,) 420,000 N. Carolina, (including three-fifths of 60,000 negroes,) 200,000 S. Carolina, (including three-fifths of 80,000 negroes,) 150,000 Georgia, (including three-fifths of 20,000 negroes,) 90,000
The general then said he would make a few observations on the objections which the gentleman had thrown out on the restrictions that might be laid on the African trade after the year 1808. On this point your delegates had to contend with the religious and political prejudices of the Eastern and Middle States, and with the interested and inconsistent opinion of Virginia, who was warmly opposed to our importing more slaves.3 I am of the same opinion now as I was two years ago, when I used the expressions the gentleman has quoted — that, while there remained one acre of swampland uncleared of South Carolina, I would raise my voice against restricting the importation of negroes. I am as thoroughly convinced as that gentleman is, that the nature of our climate, and the flat, swampy situation of our country, obliges us to cultivate our lands with negroes, and that without them South Carolina would soon be a desert waste.
You have so frequently heard my sentiments on this subject, that I need not now repeat them. It was alleged, by some of the members who opposed an unlimited importation, that slaves increased the weakness of any state who admitted them; that they were a dangerous species of property, which an invading enemy could easily turn against ourselves and the neighboring states; and that, as we were allowed a representation for them in the House of Representatives, our influence in government would be increased in proportion as we were less able to defend ourselves. "Show some period," said the members from the Eastern States, "when it may be in our power to put a stop, if we please, to the importation of this weakness, and we will endeavor, for your convenience, to restrain the religious and political prejudices of our people on this subject." The Middle States and Virginia made us no such proposition; they were for an immediate and total prohibition. We endeavored to obviate the objections that were made in the best manner we could, and assigned reasons for our insisting on the importation, which there is no occasion to repeat, as they must occur to every gentleman in the house: a committee of the states was appointed in order to accommodate this matter, and, after a great deal of difficulty, it was settled on the footing recited in the Constitution.
By this settlement we have secured an unlimited importation of negroes for twenty years. Nor is it declared that the importation shall be then stopped; it may be continued. We have a security that the general government can never emancipate them, for no such authority is granted; and it is admitted, on all hands, that the general government has no powers but what are expressly granted by the Constitution, and that all rights not expressed were reserved by the several states.4 We have obtained a right to recover our slaves in whatever part of America they may take refuge, which is a right we had not before. In short, considering all circumstances, we have made the best terms for the security of this species of property it was in our power to make. We would have made better if we could; but, on the whole, I do not think them bad.

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