Isaac D. Jones of Somerset County, a bastion of slaveholders, said he recognized that the majority of the delegates would vote to abolish slavery. So he tried a different argument, urging his fellow delegates to move slowly to emancipate slaves for the good of the slaves themselves. “Winter will be approaching,” he said. “If those slaves now comfortably housed, clothed and fed themselves . . . I suggest to those who are unacquainted with the condition of this unfortunate class of people what will be approaching winter with the present high prices of food, the present high prices of clothing? Where will they find a home?”
The delegates eventually approved abolition and put the new constitution to a referendum by popular vote, where the pro-slavery forces were ahead — until the absentee ballots of Union soldiers were counted.