« AnteriorContinuar »
H. or R.
majority for which I hope, it would be carried by the united voice of every member.
Mr. Chairman, said Mr. T., I too sensibly feel the value of your time, to proceed in this discussion. I have touched, but with the utmost brevity, the most prominent objections which have been urged against the amendment: less I could not say in justice to myself-much more I ought to say in justice to the subject. The general considerations which I had the honor to suggest, when in committee on the Missouri bill, are equally applicable on the present occasion. I will not repeat them-they are fresh in your recollection. May the future inhabitants of Arkansas approve the decision we now shall makeI ask no more. Let their interests be our guide, and the further introduction of slavery will not contaminate their borders.
as an entering wedge to prepare the way for an attack by Congress on the property of masters in their slaves, in the several States. The charge is unfounded. We know too well the Constitutional powers of this House, and the Constitutional rights of the States, to entertain an idea of such flagrant usurpation. Nay, sir, said Mr. T., we do not propose, even in this territory, over which we have full and undisputed sovereignty, to take from the master his property in a slave-so far from it, that if it be fact that the labor of slaves is there in demand, by prohibiting their further introduction into the territory, that demand will be increased, and the value of such property now there, will be greatly enhanced. The same gentleman, said Mr. T., has expressed an opinion that if our ancestors had maintained the dostrine embraced in the amendment, the Federal Constitution would never have been formed, and he has thought proper to warn us that, if it be persisted in, the confederation will be dissolved. Has it then come to this? Is the preservation of our Union made to depend on the admission of slavery into a territory not belonging to the States when the Constitution was adopted? A territory purchased by Congress, and for which Congress are bound to legislate, with a faithful regard to the public welfare. Are we to be terrified from doing our duty, by threats of disunion and dismemberment? If the day ever arrive when the Representatives of one section of the country shall legislate in this hall under the influence of threats from another, it will be high time for a dissolution of the Union. No, sir, said Mr. T., that honorable gentleman greatly mistakes the people of this country, if he supposes this Union-York, (Mr. TAYLOR) which prohibits slaves from cemented by so strong interests, necessary to all, and especially to the slaveholding States-consecrated by so much glorious achievement-sanctified by the blood of so many heroes-endeared by victories won with the exertions and treasures of all-that this Union, the preservation of which is the first lesson of lisping infancy, and the last prayer of expiring age that this Union can ever be destroyed or in the least impaired by promoting the cause of humanity and freedom in America.
Mr. WALKER, of North Carolina, spoke as follows: Mr. Chairman, in taking a view of this subject, let it not be forgotten, that we are legislating in a free country, and for a free people; the importance of the principle now contested, demands our utmost attention and vigilance to the great principles of the Constitution, and particularly to that friendly compromise entered into by the worthy framers of that instrument. It was then conceded that the slaveholding States were to hold an equal portion of policy, and to be entitled to the same advantages as other States in the Union. But it appears by the prohibition and restriction attempted to be made as a condition of admitting new States into the Union, a direct violation of that sacred compact is attempted. The amendment proposed by the gentleman from New
being taken into the territory of the Arkansas, completely deprives the citizens of the Southern section of the Union from any advantages arising in the Government, or from having either part or lot, or any inheritance, on the west side of the Mississippi. Sir, was it not purchased by the whole United States? Did not the Southern States contribute their full share for that purchase? And are they not morally and politically entitled to equal advantages of the soil? It is to be presumed that a great portion of the population But, sir, said Mr. T., the honorable gentle- of that territory will be emigrants from the Southman has mentioned a fact which shows how ern States; they will be disposed to remove to Virginia herself felt and acted on the subject of that climate suited to their constitution and hab slavery, in the Convention of 1787. It was, he in-its, or the culture of rice and cotton. Shall they forms us, a Representative from Virginia who drew the ordinance excluding slavery from the Northwest Territory. This, said Mr. T., was a noble act-worthy to immortalize the name of Grayson. But alas! His zeal for the rights of man, his love for future generations, his active philanthropy and manly eloquence no longer animate this assembly. Would to God his mantle had fallen on some one of his successors. Then that successor, and not the humble individual who now addresses you, would have introduced this amendment to the consideration of the Committee. He would have supported it by eloquence so powerful, by argument so unanswerable, by pathos so irresistible, that instead of the meagre
be proscribed, and prohibited from taking their slaves? Sir, if so, your land will be an uncultivated waste-a fruitless soil; it is further south than the 35th degree of latitude, a low and warm country, that will not support a laboring white population.
But, sir, I contend that we have no legitimate power to legislate on the property of the citizens, only to levy taxes. We might, with the same right, prohibit other species of property from crossing the Mississippi. Have not the Southern States yielded to the Eastern States so much of their favorite system of free white population, as to give up and relinquish the new States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and all the vast territory
H. of R.
north of the river Ohio? and shall the slavehold-gentleman who has just resumed his seat, (Mr. ing States be withheld from a small share of the CUSHMAN) as one of liberty and slavery, an idea prospective advantages arising in the settlement he utterly disclaimed; and, with a view of preof this new territory? Gentlemen seem to think venting any misconception of the course he felt that they are serving the cause of humanity effec- it his duty to take, he would detain the Committively, in prohibiting slaves to cross the Missis- tee a short time while he explained the reasons sippi. In this they are mistaken; they are with by which he was influenced. Mr. McL. said, he holding from them the means of all the comfort would yield to no gentleman in the House, in his and happiness their condition affords; that is, love of freedom, or in his abhorrence of slavery in food and raiment. It is well known that in the its mildest form. His earliest education, and the frontier country the servant feeds as his master, habits of his life, were opposed to the holding of and is sufficiently clothed; while in the interior slaves, and the encouragement of slavery. At the of the old States the means of subsistence is scan- same time, he would yield to no gentleman in the ty and improvident. House in his regard for the Constitution of his country, and for the peace, safety, and preservation of the Union of these States. To these great objects all minor considerations should give way. He would unite with gentlemen in any course within the pale of the Constitution, for the gradual abolition of slavery in the United States. Beyond this, the oath he had taken as a member of the House, forbade him to go. The fixing of a line on the west of the Mississippi, north of which slavery should not be tolerated, had always been with him a favorite policy, and he hoped the day was not distant when upon principles of fair compromise it might constitutionally be effected. He was apprehensive, however, that the present premature attempt, and the feelings it had elicited, would interpose new and almost insuperable obstacles to the attainment of the end.
But, sir, the great and radical objection to the amendment proposed, is taking away from the people of this territory the natural and Constitutional right of legislating for themselves, and imposing on them a condition which they may not willingly accept. In organizing a territorial government, and forming a constitution, they and they alone, have the right, and are the proper judges of that policy best adapted to their genius and interest, and it ought to be exclusively left to them. If they wish to exclude slaves from being taken into their territory, they can prohibit them by their own act. If they think proper to admit the emigration of slaves, they can say so. Let them be their own judges, and not force upon them a yoke they may not be willing to bear. The people of the Arkansas and of the West are competent judges of their Constitutional rights, and well know how to appreciate their privileges as freemen; and be assured, the further from your metropolis, the greater the enthusiasm for liberty. Slavery is an evil we have long deplored but cannot cure; it was entailed upon us by our ancestors; it was not our original sin, and we cannot, in our present situation, release ourselves from the embarrassment; and, as it is an evil, the more diffusive, the lighter it will be felt, and the wider it is extended the more equal the proportion of inconvenience. We know, we felt yesterday on the Missouri bill, you have the power; you are the majority; but do not bear us down on this question. I trust that gentlemen will exercise on this vote a spirit of conciliation, and give the Southern States an inheritance among their brethren, by suffering such of us as are disposed to become citizens of the Arkansas to take our slave property with us. Then your lands will be sold; your soil will be cultivated; and your country will flourish.
Mr. McL. said, that gentlemen had lost sight of the real questions under consideration. They had treated the subject as if we were now deliberating upon the expediency of increasing the slavery in the United States from abroad; or, as if we were to decide whether there should or should not be slavery among us. Sir, if this were the question, there is no gentleman on this floor from the North or South who would hesitate in his opinion. He believed there was no quarter of the country in which slavery is more seriously deplored than in the South. But, it was an evil which existedit had been unfortunately entailed upon us, and it required the united and dispassionate wisdom of the nation to mitigate its horrors and soften its calamities. The farther increase of slavery from abroad had been prohibited by very severe laws, and we were at this session about to pass others, enforcing their provisions, and repairing their de fects. The present question regarded merely the disposition of the slaves among us, and that only in a limited extent. Sir, said Mr. McL., what is the question now before the Committee?
Mr. McLANE, of Delaware, said he regretted very much the discussion of this subject in its France, by the treaty of April, 1803, ceded to present form, with regard to these territories, cal- the United States the territory of Louisianaculated as it was to arouse feelings which had by certain limits, within which are contained the long slumbered, and which could never be resusci- territories of Missouri and Arkansas, and upon tated without great danger to that humane object the terms therein specified. At the time of this we all had in view. He regretted it the more, cession there were a number of slaves in both because it never was without pain that he found places, belonging to the people inhabiting those himself compelled to assume even the appearance territories, and from that time, until now, there has of opposition to the most enthusiastic notion for been no inhibition of the transportation of slaves the abolition of slavery. With such impressions, to these territories from those States whose muhe should not have taken any part in the discus-nicipal regulations permitted their exportation. sion, if the question had not been treated by the From these causes, the number has been increas
ing daily to the present time, and it is admitted that there is at present a very considerable slave population.
The restrictions which are now proposed, amount, in fact, first, to the emancipation of the present slaves and their issue; and, secondly, to a condition precedent to the admission of these Territories into the Union, as States, that they shall prohibit the introduction of slavery in future from any part of the United States. Under these provisions, persons removing thither with their families, and with the bona fide intention of residing permanently therein, are prohibited from carrying with them this species of property, should they be the owners of any.
H. OF R,
sense, that the owner has property in, or right to the service merely, it is, nevertheless, a right, and we cannot interfere with that right by a mere act of legislation.
What would be said of the Legislature of the State of Delaware, or Maryland, if, by law, they were to declare all the slaves within their territory to be free? Could it be pretended for a moment that they would have any right to do so? The utmost any State has done, has been to say, that, after a certain day, sometime in prospective, the issue of all persons held to slavery shall be free. He would not now discuss this right, though he could not discern how the right to the usufruct of this property could be at all impaired, I have no doubt that these propositions proceed and, at any rate, in the case alluded to, the owner from the most humane philanthropic motives, would be allowed the privilege of removing his and nothing can more gladden the heart than the slave before the day arrived when the law was to contemplation of a portion of territory consecra- take effect. As it regarded the slaves, at present ted to freedom, whose soil should never be moist-existing, therefore, we certainly had no power to ened by the tear of the slave, or degraded by the interfere; and the question was of consequence step of the oppressor or the oppressed. It is a narrowed down to the simple propositions to protheory which we should be very apt to reduce to hibit the introduction of slaves in future, and to practice without even consulting the condition denying to the inhabitants of those Territories of the present miserable race of slaves in many about to become States the right and privilege of parts of the United States, if we had the power deciding for themselves in this particular. It by to do so. But, although Mr. McL. desired the no means follows that they will not decide to result as sincerely as any man, he was bound to exclude slavery in future; it is quite probable say, that, after a deliberate investigation of the they will find it their interest to do so; but have subject, he did not believe that Congress possessed we the right of taking from them the privilege the power to impose the restriction. As it re- of judging of their own interest and policy in garded the unfortunate beings now held in slave- this respect? To our power to do this, either as ry in those Territories, he said, he had no more regarded the State now to be admitted, or the right to provide for their liberation than he had territory hereafter to become a State, he conscito invade any other species of property whatso-entiously believed the Constitution, and the naever. Their owners had acquired the legal title to their labor and services, it had become a vested right, and we had no power to disturb it. We had no greater power to take from them their property in these slaves than we had to deprive them of any chattel or other object of ownership. He did not mean to consider the slave as a mere chattel; he viewed him as an ill-fated member of the human race, doomed by a hard and cruel fortune to devote his labor and services to another; he was the subject of the protecting arm of the law, and his life and person were sacred from those outrages which might be committed with impunity upon other articles of property. But, after all, his services and his person belonged to his owner; he was the property of his owner. The man who steals a slave is guilty of felony-this shows him to be property. But, the constitutions of the States in which slavery is tolerated, and the Constitution of the United States, recognise the interest of the owner in his slave as property. The Union of the States is founded upon this principle; and the owner is authorized to reclaim his slave on the ground of property, when he shall have absconded from his service. In many of the States they are liable to be taken in execution and sold for debt, considering them as property. This is the law in the State which I have the honor in part to represent. If we treat them, therefore, as property, and if we even consider it in a limited
tional compact, to which he would hereafter refer more particularly, opposed an insuperable barrier.
Mr. McL. said he denied that Congress had power to impose any condition upon the admission of a State into the Union impairing its sovereignty. We had a right to require the form and spirit of its Constitution to be Republican, and we had the right to say that we would or would not admit, but we could go no further. We could impose no terms in abridgment of its rights of sovereignty whatsoever, and he protested against the opposite doctrine as leading to the most pernicious consequences. "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union." When so admitted they become members of the Union, as the others who have been admitted before them; it is but an addition of another link to the old chain; incurring the same obligations to contribute to the common defence and general welfare, and therefore entitled to the same rights and privileges with the other Confederates. The term "State" imports sovereignty, and the term "State," in relation to the federative system of the United States, imports the same degree of sovereignty as is enjoyed by the States of that Union. It is of the very essence of our Government, that all the States composing the Union should have equal sovereignty. It is the great principle on which the Union reposes-the germ of its duration. How long would this empire
be held together, composed as it is of many parts united together for a common interest, if all those parts were unequal in their privileges, unequal in their rights, but compelled to make an equal contribution to the support of the others? It would be a motley tribe of sovereign and demiSovereign States-a congregated mass of incoherent particles-disorder and dismemberment would be the inevitable consequence. Besides, sir, a constitution is the charter containing the principles by which men are to be governed in their persons and property-it is the charter of rights of a free people-in its formation, deliberation and freedom of deliberation are necessary ingredients; but, if we are to make their constitution, or prescribe the terms of it, what becomes of the right of deliberation? We dictate the terms ourselves to suit our views, without regard to their interests or condition. In effect, we agree to admit them to be a State if they will consent to be less than a State-to constitute them a member of the Union, if they will agree to give up the right of judging of the form of government best adapted to their condition. But, sir, what are the limits of this power? If we have the right to impose this condition, what condition have we not a right to impose? The power must be general, or it does not exist. If we have the right to insist upon a stipulation on the part of the new State, not to admit slaves, because it is humane and politic to do so, we would have an equal right to insist upon a stipulation of another kind, if it should also appear to us to be wise and politic; we might prescribe, as a condition, that their right of suffrage should be regulated as we should direct; that their representation should not be as large, in proportion to their population, as other States; that they should not have the benefit of the equality of taxation; that they should surrender to the General Government greater powers, and retain fewer rights, than the other States of the Union had done; or that they should encourage this or that religion, or no religion at all. And, sir, at some future day, when the slaveholding interest, as it has been called, predominates in this body, it might be made a condition, upon the admission of a new State, that slavery should not only be tolerated, but that it should never afterwards be interdicted. Let gentlemen remember, too, that the predominance of this interest is by no means improbable, and that there yet remains a vast, unsettled region, which the future growth of this mighty empire is destined to people and improve. Sir, it is the undoubted right of every people, when admitted to be a State, to become free, sovereign, and independent-free to make their own constitution and laws to be the judges of their own policy, and free to alter or amend them at pleasure. The moment they are constituted a State, they would have these rights, notwithstanding the condition imposed; and, if they were to present you with a constitution, containing this provision, it would be matter of form only; they could change it immediately afterwards, and abolish the very feature you would desire to retain. The condi
tion, therefore, would not only be unconstitutional, but useless. We do not possess the political power to enforce it; an attempt to do so would, no doubt, prove abortive as to its object; but it might leave behind it a deep and lasting wound, rankling in the bosom of the State, and finally alienate all their respect for your authority.
But, Mr. Chairman, said Mr. McL., besides the general principles already adverted to, we are not at liberty, as respects this Territory, to consult our power, if we possessed it. We are bound to these people by a compact which forbids us to impose the condition, and we cannot, without a breach of faith, violate that compact. The third article of the treaty of cession provides, that, "The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to 'the principles of the Federal Constitution, to 'the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United Statesand, in the meantime, they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the religion they profess."
This article applies both to Missouri and Arkansas; and, in fact, so do all the arguments already used; for, though the law now to be passed refers to Arkansas as a Territory, yet it will shortly become a State, and the principles derivable from its sovereignty would then apply with equal force. By this treaty, then, we have stipulated to protect the inhabitants of this Territory in the enjoyment of their property, of which their slaves unquestionably formed a part, until they can be incorporated in the union of the United States, that is, until their population shall amount to the number always required to authorize the admission of a State, or until Congress shall pass a law authorizing them to form a constitution. As soon as this is the case, they are to be "incorporated in the union of the United States," and admitted, "according to the principles of the Federal Constitution," to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of "citizens of the United States." What are these "rights, advantages, and immunities," "according to the principles of the Federal Constitution ? That they shall have the right of holding slaves if they please to do so; that they shall form State governments, with the same rights and immunities of all other State governments; that they shall have the same power to make their municipal laws as any other States, and the same advantages as citizens of the United States. As such, as citizens of the United States, the right to possess slaves is unquestionable. It cannot be doubted that all the States possess this right of admitting or excluding slavery within their jurisdiction, as they may think fit. Pennsylvania and New York possess this right; and, though it is their present policy to exclude slavery, no one can doubt that they would have the right to-morrow, if they thought proper to do so, to alter their policy, and permit the introduction of slavery. The right to hold slaves, and, which is more important as it respects their freedom and sovereignty, the right
H. of R.
to decide whether they will or will not hold them, of the Southern planter, when emigrating to the is as much an immunity and advantage, under Western country in pursuit of the riches which our Constitution, as the right to be represented in that fruitful territory holds out to an industrious Congress, or the right to a freedom of religious enterprise-and I would not permit them to be opinion, or the right to have the slaves accounted sold by traders, or become the objects of profita part of their population, in the manner, pre- they would by this means become dispersed over scribed by the Constitution. We have no more a wider field; their condition would necessarily power to impair one than another of these rights. be improved, (for they always thrive and do betSir, we cannot attach too much importance to ter when held in small numbers;) and the chances this treaty, and the rights secured by it. It was of emancipation would certainly be multiplied the condition of the transfer of the original in- in both countries; the number would be less in habitants of this Territory, and their possessions, the South and the West; they would be less for. from their former Government to ours. They midable to the white population; and in the enjoyed these rights under their old Government, course of time gradually acquire ease and freeand in the exchange of allegiance they were as- dom. In the State from which I have the honor sured that it should not be lost; that the United to come, the work of emancipation is rapidly States would guaranty them these rights, and progressing, and, I believe, principally owing to protect them in their enjoyment. Strangers as the sparseness of this description of population. these people were to us and to our institutions, Their condition is also better than those further the solemn obligations of the treaty should, on South, from the same cause. There is, however, this account, be sacredly observed. We are to one view of this part of the subject so nearly win their affections for our Government and allied to the right of Congress to impose the conConstitution, which can only be done by a sacred templated restriction, that I cannot avoid advertregard for their rights and our own obligations. ing to it. It is said by the gentlemen from the The inhabitants who have since emigrated to this South that this Territory was purchased with the Territory, have gone under the faith of this treaty, common fund of the nation, to whose benefits all relying upon the known good faith of the Ameri- have an equal right; and that, by preventing the can Government, for the strict fulfilment of its Southern planter from carrying his slaves with stipulations. Sir, the prosperity and union of the him when he goes to settle in this Territory, you United States depend upon the honest perform-interdict the emigration from that quarter altogeance of all the engagements on the part of the Government. The protection to all its members of the people, of the country-in the enjoyment of their rights, of every description, is the object of the Union. When the disposition to do this effectually ceases, the great chain by which we are connected will cease to bind us. And, sir, if any one or more of the States have a deeper interest in the faithful execution of the principles of our compact, it is the small States, who should be the last to relax the most rigid enforcement of their true spirit and intention.
ther. Although it is clear that any one State might frame its municipal regulations so as to exclude the introduction of slaves, even by persons removing into it, yet it can scarcely be doubted that the exercise of this right ought to be left to the sound discretion of each State; and we know the policy of different States varies in this particular. In Delaware, persons removing from or into the State are permitted to carry their slaves with them: their introduction and exportation is prohibited only for the purposes of sale. In Pennsylvania it is otherwise. Congress would cerIt does therefore appear to me, Mr. Chairman, tainly have no power to interdict the emigration said Mr. McL., that we are prevented, both by from one State to another; and it is worthy of the principles of our Constitution and the terms consideration how far they can do the same by of our solemn compact, from imposing this re- indirect means. I cannot admit the construction striction; that, without considering the expedi- of the honorable gentleman from New York ency of the measure, it becomes a conscientious (Mr. SPENCER) of the clause of the Constitution duty (though to some, and to me among others, which provides that the emigration or importaa painful one) to resist it. And yet, sir, a view tion of such persons as any of the States now of the question of expediency would go very far existing shall think proper to admit shall not be to mitigate the pain which we might otherwise prohibited prior to the year 1808. This clause feel at being unable to gratify our wishes. We was designed to embrace all classes of peoplehave now in the United States a large slave pop- freemen as well as slaves-coming from abroad. ulation. It is certain that it cannot be increased It could not mean to authorize Congress to proby importations from abroad. Their sudden eman-hibit the migration from one State to another, cipation is utterly impracticable. In their present situation, even a gradual one is almost hope less. To meliorate their sufferings, and soften the rigors of their servitude, is the most that can be done in many parts of the country. But while they are confined exclusively to the Southern States, owned in large numbers by a single individual, and limited to a single farm, even this change is scarcely to be expected. If, however, they were permitted to be carried by the children
because it would conflict with another provision, that citizens of one State shall be entitled to all the privileges of free citizens in another, which secures the right of emigration; and because, if it were designed to vest the power in Congress, it would of necessity, to be available at all, be an exclusive power; but we all see the States constantly exercising it, and they have been in the habit of exercising it ever since the adoption of the Constitution.