f the states; and, with regard to the other, that no authority existed to prohibit the migration or importation of such persons as the states might think proper to admit, prior to the year 1808.
So distinct and final was this statement of the limitations of the authority of Congress considered to be that, when a similar petition was presented two or three years afterward, the clerk of the House was instructed to return it to the petitioner.
See Benton's Abridgment, Vol.
I, p. 397.
In 1807 Congress, availing itself of the very earliest moment at which the constitutional restriction ceased to be operative, passed an act prohibiting the importation of slaves into any part of the United States from and after the first day of January, 1808.
This act was passed with great unanimity.
In the House of Representatives there were one hundred thirteen (113) yeas to five (5) nays; it is a significant fact, as showing the absence of any sectional division of sentiment at that period, tha