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point. I regard domestic slavery as one of the greatest of evils, both moral and political. But, though it be a malady, and whether it be curable, and if so, by what means; or, on the other hand, whether it be the culnus immedicabile of the social system, I leave it to those whose right and duty it is to inquire and to decide. And this I believe, sir, is, and uniformly has been, the sentiment of the north. Let us look a little at the history of this matter. .../
When the present constitution was submitted for the ratification of the pe ple, there were those who imagined that the powers of the government which it proposed to establish might, perhaps, in some possible mode, be exerted in measures tending to the abolition of slavery. This suggestion would, of course, attract much attention in the southern conventions. In that of Virginia, Governor Randolph said:—
“I hope there is none here, who, considering the subject in the calm light of philosophy, will make an objection dishonorable to Virginia—that, at the moment they are securing the rights of their citizens, an objection is started, that there is a spark of hope that those unfortunate men now held in bondage may, by the operation of the general government, be made free.”
At the very first Congress, petitions on the subject were presented, if I mistake not, from different states. The Pennsylvania Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, took a lead, and laid before Congress a memorial, praying Congress to promote the abolition by such powers as it possessed. This memorial was referred, in the House of Representatives, to a select committee, consisting of Mr. Foster, of New Hampshire, Mr. Gerry, of Massachusetts, Mr. Huntington, of Connecticut, Mr. Lawrence, of New York, Mr. Dickinson, of New Jersey, Mr. Hartley, of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Parker, of Virginia; all of them, sir, as you will observe, northern men, but the last. This committee made a report, which was committed to a committee of the whole house, and there considered and discussed on several days; and being amended, although in no material respect, it was made to express three distinct propositions on the subjects of slavery and the slave trade. First, in the words of the constitution, that Congress could not, prior to the year 1808, prohibit the migration or importation of such persons as any of the states then existing should think proper to admit. Second, that Congress had authority to restrain the citizens of the United States from carrying on the African slave trade for the purpose of supplying foreign countries. On this proposition, our early laws against those who engage in that traffic are founded. The third proposition, and that which bears on the present question, was expressed in the following terms:–
“Resolved, That Congress have no authority to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them in any of the states; it remaining with the several states alone to provide rules and regulations therein, which humanity and true policy may require.”
This resolution received the sanction of the House of Representatives so early as March, 1790. And, now, sir, the honorable member will allow me to remind him, that not only were the select committee who reported the re
solution, with a single exception, all northern men, but also that of the mem
bers then composing the House of Representatives, a large majority, I believe nearly two-thirds, were northern men also.
The house agreed to insert these resolutions in its journal; and, from that day to this, it has never been maintained or contended that Congress had any
|authority to regulate or interfere with the condition of slaves in the several
states. No northern gentleman, to my knowledge, has moved any such question in either house of Congress. 12
dThe fears of the south, whatever fears they might have entertained, were allayed and quieted by this early decision; and so remained, till they were excited afresh, without cause, but for collateral and indirect
When it became necessary, or was thought so, by some political persons, to find an unvarying ground for the exclusion of northern men from confidence and from lead in the affairs of the republic, then, and not till then, the cry was raised, and the feeling industriously excited, that the influence of northern men in the public councils would endanger the relation of master and slave. For myself, I claim no other merit, than that this gross and enormous injustice towards the whole north has not wrought upon me to change my opinions, or my political conduct. I hope I am above violating my principles
, even under the smart of injury and false imputations. Unjust suspicions and undeserved reproach, whatever pain I may experience from them, will not induce me, I trust, nevertheless, to overstep the limits of constitutional duty, or to encroach on the rights of others. The domestic slavery of the south I leave where I find it — in the hands of their own governments. It is their affair, not mine. Nor do I complain of the peculiar effect which the magnitude of that population has had in the distribution of power under this federal government. We know, sir, that the representation of the states in the other house is not equal. We know that great advantage, in that respect, is enjoyed by the slaveholding states; and we know, too, that the intended equivalent for that advantage — that is to say, the imposition of direct taxes in the same ratio — has become merely nominal; the habit of the government being almost invariably to collect its revenues from other sources, and in other modes. Nevertheless, I do not complain; nor would I countenance any movement to alter this arrangement of representation. It is the original bargain, the compact - let it stand; let the advantage of it be fully enjoyed. The Union itself is too full of benefit to be hazarded in propositions for changing its original basis. I go for the constitution as it is, and for the Union as it is. But I am resolved not to submit, in silence, to accusations, either against myself individually, or against the north, wholly unfounded and unjust accusations which impute to us a disposition to evade the constitutional compact, and to exteud the power of the government over the internal laws and domestic condition of the states.) All such accusations, wherever and whenever made, all insinuations of the existence of any such purposes, I know and feel to be groundless and injurious. And we must confide in southern gentlemen themselves; we must trust to those whose integrity of heart and magnanimity of feeling will lead them to a desire to maintain and disseminate truth, and who possess the means of its diffusion with the southern public; we must leave it to them to disabuse that public of its prejudices. But, in the mean time, for my own part, I shall continue to act justly, whether those towards whom justice is exercised receive it with candor or with contumely.
Having had occasion to recur to the ordinance of 1787, in order to defend myself against the inferences which the honorable member has chosen to draw from
my former observations on that subject, I am not willing now entirely to take leave of it without another remark. It need hardly be said, that that. paper expresses just sentiments on the great subject of civil and religious liberty. Such sentiments were common, and abound in all our state papers of that day. But this ordinance did that which was not so common, and which is not, even now, universal; that is, it set forth and declared, as a high and binding duty of government itself, to encourage schools and advance the means of educatior; on the plain reason that religion, morality and knowledge
are necessary to good government, and to the happiness of mankind. One observation further. The important provision incorporated into the constitution of the United States, and several of those of the states, and recently, as we have seen, adopted into the reformed constitution of Virginia, restraining legislative power, in questions of private right, and from impairing the obligation of contracts, is first introduced and established, as far as I am informed, as matter of express written constitutional law, in this ordinance of 1787. And I must add, also, in regard to the author of the ordinance, who has not had the happiness to attract the gentleman's notice heretofore, nor to avoid his sarcasm now, that he was chairman of that select committee of the old Congress, whose report first expressed the strong sense of that body, that the old confederation was not adequate to the exigencies of the country, and recommending to the states to send delegates to the convention which formed the present constitution. An attempt has been made to transfer from the north to the south the honor of this exclusion of slavery from the North-western Territory. The journal, without argument or comment, refutes such attempt. The session of Virginia was made March, 1784. On the 19th of April following, a committee, consisting of Messrs. Jefferson, Chase and Howell, reported a plan for a temporary government of the territory, in which was this article: “That after the year 1800, there shonld be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said states, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been convicted.” Mr. Speight, of North Carolina, moved to strike out this paragraph. The question was put, according to the form then practiced: “Shall these words stand, as part of the plan?” &c. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—seven states— voted in the affirmative; Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina, in the negative. North Carolina was divided. As the consent of nine states was necessary, the words could not stand, and were struck out accordingly. Mr. Jefferson voted for the clause, but was overruled | by his collegues. * v In March of the next year so Mr. King, of Massachusetts, seconded by Mr. Ellery, of Rhode Island, proposed the formerly rejected article, with this addition: “And that this regulation shall be an article of compact, and remain a fundamental principle of the constitution between the thirteen original states and each of the states described in the resolve,” &c. On this clause, which provided the adequate and thorough security, the eight Northern States, at that time, voted affirmatively, and the four Southern States negatively. The votes of nine states were not yet obtained, and thus the provision was again rejected by the Southern States. The perseverence of the north held out, and two years afterwards the object was attained. It is no derogation from the credit, whatever that may be, of drawing the ordinance, that its principles had before been prepared and discussed, in the form . of resolutions. If one should reason in that way, what would become of the distinguished honor of the author of the Declaration of Independence? There is not a sentiment in that paper which had not been voted and resolved in the assemblies, and other popular bodies in the country, over and over again. But the honorable member has now found out that this gentleman, Mr. Dane, was a member of the Hartford Convention. However uninformed the honorable member may be of characters and occurrences at the north, it would seem that he has at his elbows, on this occasion, some high-minded and lofty spirit, some magnanimous and true-hearted monitor, possessing the means of
local knowledge, and ready to supply the honorable member with every thing, down even to forgotten and moth-eaten twopenny pamphlets, which may be used to the disadvantage of his own country. But, as to the Hartford Convention, sir, allow me to say that the proceedings of that body seem now to be less read and studied in New England than farther South. They appear to be looked to, not in New England, but elsewhere, for the purpose of seeing how far they may serve as a precedent. But they will not answer the purpose—they are quite too tame. The latitude in which they originated was too cold. Other conventions, of more recent existence, have gone a whole bar's length beyond it. The learned doctors of Colleton and Abbeville have pushed their commentaries on the Hartford collect so far that the original text writers are thrown entirely into the shade. I have nothing to do, sir, with the Hartford Convention. Its journal, which the gentleman has quoted, I never read. So far as the honorable member may discover in its proceedings a spirit in any degree resembling that which was avowed and justified in those other conventions to which I have alluded, or so far as those proceedings can be shown to be disloyal to the constitution, or tending to disunion, so far I shall be as ready as any one to bestow o ion and censure.
g is convention, and other occurrences of that Tây, in the hope, probably, (which will not be gratified) that I should leave the course of this debate to follow him at length in those excursions, the honorable member returned, and attempted another object. He referred to a speech of mine in the other house, the same which I had occasion to allude to myself the other day; and has quoted a passage or two from it, with a bold though uneasy and laboring air of confidence, as if he had detected in me an inconsistency. Judging from the gentleman's manner, a stranger to the course of the debate, and to the point in discussion, would have imagined, from so triumphant a tone, that the honorable member was about to overwhelm me with a manifest contradiction. Any one who heard him, and who had not heard what I had, in fact, previously said, must have thought me routed and discomfited, as the gentleman had promised. Sir, a breath blows all this triumph away. There is not the slightest difference in the sentiments of my remarks on the two occasions. What I said here on Wednesday is in exact accordance with the opinions expressed by me in the other house in 1825. Though the gentleman had the metaphysics of Hudibras—though he were able
“to sever and divide
he could not yet insert his metaphysical scissors between the fair reading of my remarks in 1825 and what I said here last week. There is not only no contradiction, no difference, but, in truth, too exact a similiarity, both in thought and language, to be entirely in just taste. I had myself quoted the same speech; had recurred to it, and spoke with it open before me; and much of what I said was little more than a repetition from it. In order to make finishing work with this alleged contradiction, permit me to recur to the origin of this debate, and review its course. This seems expedient, and #. be done as well now as at any time. 7"Well, then, its history is this: the honorable member from Connecticut moved a resolution, which constituted the first branch of that which is now before us; that is to say, a resolution instructing the committee on public lands to inquire into the expediency of limiting, for a certain period, the sales
of public lands to such as have heretofore been offered for sale; and whether sundry offices, connected with the sales of the lands, might not be abolished without detriment to the public service.
In the progress of the discussion which arose on this resolution, an honorable member from New Hampshire moved to amend the resolution, so as entirely to reverse its object; that is, to strike it all out, and insert a direction to the committee to inquire into the expediency of adopting measures to hasten. the sales, and extend more rapidly the surveys of the lands.
The honorable member from Maine (Mr. Sprague) suggested that both these propositions might well enough go, for consideration, to the committee; and in this state of the question, the member from South Carolina addressed the Senate in his first speech. He rose, he said, to give us his own free thoughts on the public lands. I saw him rise, with pleasure, and listened with expectation, though before he concluded I was filled with surprise. Certainly, I was never more surprised than to find him following up, to the extent he did, the sentiments and opinions which the gentleman from Missouri had put forth, and which it is known he has long entertained.
I need not repeat, at large, the general topics of the honorable gentleman's speech. When he said, yesterday, that he did not attack the Eastern States, he certainly must have forgotten not only particular remarks, but the whole drift and tenor of his speech; unless he means by not attacking, that he did not commence hostilities, but that another had preceded him in the attack. He, in the first place, disapproved of the whole course of the government for forty years, in regard to its dispositions of the public land; and then, turning northward and eastward, and fancying he had found a cause for alleged narrowness and niggardliness in the “ accursed policy” of the tariff, to which he represented the people of New England as wedded, he went on, for a full hour, with remarks, the whole scope of which was to exhibit the results of this policy, in feelings and in measures unfavorable to the west. I thought his opinions unfounded and erroneous, as to the general course of the government, and ventured to reply to them.
The gentleman had remarked on the analogy of other cases, and quoted the conduct of European governments towards their own subjects, settling on this continent, as in point,
to show that we had been harsh and rigid in selling when we should have given the public lands to settlers. I thought the honorable member had suffered his judgment to be betrayed by a false analogy; that he was struck with an appearance of resemblance where there was no real similitude. I think so still. The first settlers of North America were enterprising spirits, engaging in private adventure, or fleeing from tyranny at home. When arrived here, they were forgotten by the mother country, or remembered only to be oppressed. Carried away again by the appearance of analogy, or struck with the eloquence of the passage, the honorable member yesterday observed that the conduct of government towards the western emigrants, or my representation of it, brought to his mind a celebrated speech in the British Parliament. It was, sir, the speech of Colonel Barre. On the question of the stamp act, or tea tax, I forget which, Colonel Barre had heard a member on the treasury bench argue, that the people of the United States, being British colonists, planted by the maternal care, nourished by the indulgence, and protected by the arms of England, would not grudge their mite to relieve the mother country from the heavy burden under which she groaned. The language of Colonel Barre, in reply to this, was, " They planted by your care ? Your oppression planted them in America. They fled from your ty