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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 Georgia, 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 pact. 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 and Slavery from the Constitution; “because,” as Mr. Madison says, “they did not choose to admit ”

1 In Convention, Wednesday, August 29, 1787.

Mr. Butler moved to insert, after Article XV., ‘if any person bound — to service or labor in any of the United States shall escape into another State, he or she shall not be discharged from such service or labor in consequence of any regulations existing in the State to which they escape, but shall be delivered up to the person justly claiming their service or labor’ --which, after some verbal modification, was agreed to, nem. con. --Madison's Papers, vol. III., p. 145, 6.

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