At length, when the Constitution
was nearly completed, Slavery, through its attorney, Mr. Butler
, of South Carolina
, presented its little Bill for extras.
Like Oliver Twist, it wanted “some more.”
Its new demand was that slaves escaping from one State into another, might be followed and legally reclaimed.
This requirement, be it observed, was entirely outside of any general and obvious necessity.
No one could pretend that there was any thing mutual in the obligation it sought to impose — that Massachusetts
or New Hampshire
was either anxious to secure the privilege of reclaiming her fugitive slaves who might escape into Carolina
, or had any desire to enter into reciprocal engagements to this end. Nor could any one gravely insist that the provision for the mutual rendition of slaves was essential to the completeness of the Federal
The old Confederation had known nothing like it; yet no one asserted that the want of an inter-State Fugitive Slave law was among the necessities or grievances which had impelled the assembling of this Convention.
But the insertion of a slave-catching clause in the Constitution
would undoubtedly be regarded with favor by the slaveholding interest, and would strongly tend to render the new frame-work of government more acceptable to the extreme South
So, after one or two unsuccessful attempts, Mr. Butler
finally gave to his proposition a shape in which it proved acceptable to a majority; and it was adopted, with slight apparent resistance or consideration.1
In these latter days, since the radical injustice and iniquity of slaveholding have been more profoundly realized and generally appreciated, many subtle and some able attempts have been made to explain away this most unfortunate provision, for the reason that the Convention
wisely and decorously excluded the terms Slave
from the Constitution
; “because,” as Mr. Madison
says, “they did not choose to admit ”