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James Wilson

...after the year 1808, the congress will have power to prohibit such importation, notwithstanding the disposition of any state to the contrary. I consider this as laying the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country; and though the period is more distant than I could wish, yet it will produce the same kind, gradual change, which was pursued in Pennsylvania. It is with much satisfaction I view this power in the general government, whereby they may lay an interdiction on this reproachful trade...

Pennsylvania Convention
On the Slave Trade Clause
December 3, 1787

Noah Webster

But, say the enemies of slavery, negros may be imported for twenty-one years. This exception is addressed to the quakers; and a very pitiful exception it is.

The truth is, Congress cannot prohibit the importation of slaves, during that period; but the laws against the importation into particular states, stand unrepealed. An immediate abolition of slavery would bring ruin upon the whites, and misery upon the blacks, in the southern states. The constitution has therefore wisely left each state to pursue its own measures, with respect to this article of legislation, during the period of twenty-one years.

A Citizen of America
October 17, 1787

General William Heath

No gentleman within these walls detests every idea of slavery more than I do: It is generally detested by the people of this Commonwealth, - and I ardently hope that the time will soon come, when our brethren in the southern States will view it as we do, and put a stop to it, but to this we have no right to compel them.

Massachusetts Convention,
January 30, 1788

William Findley (?)

The importation of slaves is not to be prohibited until the year 1808, and SLAVERY will probably resume its empire in Pennsylvania.

"An Officer of the Late Continental Army"
Independent Gazetteer,
November 6, 1787

What adds to the evil is, that these states are to be permitted to continue the inhuman traffic of importing slaves, until the year 1808 - and for every cargo of these unhappy people, which unfeeling, unprincipled, barbarous, and avaricious wretches, may tear from their country, friends and tender connections, and bring into those states, the are to be rewarded by having an increase of members in the general assembly.

"Brutus" III
New York Journal,
November 15, 1787

Luther Martin

That on the contrary, we ought rather to prohibit expressly in our constitution, the further importation of slaves; and to authorize the general government from time to time, to make such regulations as should be thought most advantageous for the gradual abolition of slavery, and the emancipation of the slaves which are already in the States.

"The Genuine Information" VIII
Maryland Gazette (Baltimore),
January 22, 1788

Luther Martin

It was urged that by this system, we were giving the general government full and absolute power to regulate commerce, under which general power it would have a right to restrain, or totally prohibit the slave trade - it must appear to the world absurd and disgraceful to the last degree, that we should except from the exercise of that power, the only branch of commerce, which is unjustifiable in its nature, and contrary to the rights of mankind...

"The Genuine Information" VIII
Maryland Gazette (Baltimore),
January 22, 1788