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Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
2 (1976)

A. Public and private commentaries on the Constitution, 17 September-6 October 1787,   pp. 130-172


Page 133

A. COMMENTARIES/20 SEPT.
was a Pennsylvania delegate to Congress. For other letters concerning the effect
of the Constitution on public securities, see Mfm:Pa. 64, 124, 169.
2. See M'Connell to Irvine, 25 September, Mfm:Pa. 65.
James Pemberton to John Pemberton,
Philadelphia, 20 September (excerpt)'
The expectation of our politicians has been much turned towards
the determination of this Convention, the members of which being
under an injunction of secrecy, their proceedings have been kept very
close. How they will now relish the plan, time will make manifest,
but the late Congress had become so very low in general estimation,
a change with enlarged powers and a proper balance seemed to be
absolutely necessary. But yet, unless there is an increase of virtue
among the people, all the efforts of human wisdom and policy will
avail little to promote their real happiness and welfare. I have given
thee these outlines of the new plan of a federal government with a
view to mention that we entertained a hope that its establishment
would have been more conspicuous on the principles of equity and
moral justice by a provision against the iniquitous slave trade. But
the influence of the Southern governments has diverted them from
that very important object, so far as to obtain a prohibition against
the Congress meddling therewith for 21 years, as appears by the ninth
section of the first Article of the plan which says, viz.:
"The migration, or importation of such Persons as any of the
States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be pro-
hibited by Congress prior to the year 1808, but a [tax] or duty may
be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each
person" which is further defended by a fifth Article, which after
liberty given for the mode of proposing future amendments to this
intended Constitution, sets forth a proviso, that "no amendment
which may be made prior to the year 1808 shall in any manner affect
the first and fourth clauses in the ninth Section of the first Article."2
1. RC, Pemberton Papers, PHi. James and John Pemberton, the sons of Israel
Pemberton, were leaders of Philadelphia's Quaker community. John Pemberton
was in Scotland. This letter is the first of a series the brothers exchanged concern-
ing the Constitution and the slave trade. Preceding the above excerpt is a de-
scription of the structure of the new government with a brief mention of its
powers (Mfm:Pa. 55).
2. For further examples of the concern of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island
Quakers about the Constitution and the slave trade, see CC:Vol. II, Appendix.
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