Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/59
Maury's Vindication of the South.
in behalf of the people of Virginia, proceeded to accept and to ratify the Constitution for the Government of the United States. Thus the Government at Washington was created.
But it did not go into operation until the other States—parties to the contract—had accepted by their act of signature and tacit agreement the conditions which Virginia required to be understood as the terms on which she accepted the Constitution and agreed to become one of the United States. Thus these conditions became, to all intents and purposes, a part of that instrument itself; for it is a rule of law and a principle of right laid down, well understood and universally acknowledged, that if, in a compact between several parties, any one of them be permitted to enter into it on a condition, that condition enures alike to the benefit of all.
Notwithstanding the purity of motive and singleness of purpose which moved Virginia to become one of the United States, sectional interests were developed, and the seeds of faction, strife and discord appeared in the very convention which adopted the Constitution. At that time African negroes were bought and sold, and held in slavery in all the States. They had been brought here by the Crown and forced upon Virginia when she was in the colonial state, in spite of her oft-repeated petitions and remonstrances against it; and now since she, with others, were independent and masters of themselves, they desired to put an end forthwith to this traffic. To this the North objected, on the ground that her people were extensively engaged in kidnapping in Africa and transporting slaves thence for sale to Southern planters. They had, it was added, such interests at stake in this business that twenty years would be required to wind it up. At that time the political balance between the sections was equal; and the South, to pacify the North, agreed that the new Government should have no power, until after twenty years should have elapsed, to restrict their traffic; and thus the North gained a lease and a right to fetch slaves from Africa into the South till 1808. That year, one of Virginia's own sons beingof the United States, an act was passed forbidding a continuance of the traffic, and declaring the further prosecution of it piracy.
Virginia was the leader in the war of the Revolution, and her sons were the master-spirits of it, both in the field and in the cabinet. For an entire generation after the establishment of the Government under the Constitution, four of her sons—with an interregnum
- Proceeding of the Virginia Convention, 1788, p. 28. Code of Virginia, 1860.