Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/328

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

The close of the revolution was signalized by Virginia's gift, not of principalities but of empires—to cement Federal union—called a "League of Love." The deed of cession of the northwest territory was executed by the delegation of Virginia in congress, in 1784, agreeably to an act of the legislature passed in 1783. Years afterwards, in the debate with Hayne, Mr. Webster took occasion to say that by the ordinance of 1787, excluding slavery therein, Nathan Dane who wrote it, thereby became greater "than Solon and Lycurgus, Minos, Numa Pompilius, and all the legislators and philosophers of the world."


The facts are these: Congress accepted this cession and directed Jefferson, of Virginia, Chase, of Maryland, and Howard, of Rhode Island, to prepare a form of government for this northwest territory. Their report, in the hand writing of Jefferson, contained a prohibition of slavery after the year 1800. On motion of Mr. Speight, of North Carolina, to strike out. this prohibition, all New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, voted "aye." Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina voted "no;" North Carolina divided. By the vote of a solid North, the prohibition was struck out. Afterwards, nemine contradicente, was passed the ordinance of 1787; reduced to writing, it would seem, by Nathan Dane, as amanuensis. The mechanical office discharged by the medium of transcription, sent to the rear, we are told, all Greek, all Roman fame. In the succeeding generation a great orator exclaims: how divine in the donee, in the grantee, the recipient! Virginians said—"we will deny ourselves the right to go with our own property (purchased largely from you), upon our own soil." This has the aspect of a "self-denying ordinance." Virginia chose the sacrifice of self, crowned with thorns by the beneficiaries; rather than the sacrifice which crowns itself with place, power, profit—the sweet sacrifice of others. She was solicitous to give to freedom a spacious empire from a heart more spacious. Webster's praise commemorates a difference of ideals—a difference between the name and the reality.