Imágenes de páginas

laborers. If, on the contrary, it is left to force itself on, human nature must shudder at the prospect held up."

Mr. Jefferson did not mean to say, nor do l. that the power of emancipation is in the Federal Government. He spoke of Virginia ; and, as to the power of emancipation, I speak of the slaveliolding States only. The Federal Govern. ment, however, as we insist, has the power of restraining the extension of the institution --the power to insure that a slave, insurrection shall never occur on any American soil which is now free from slavery.

John Brown's effort was peculiar, It was not a slave insurrection. It was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate. In fact, it was so absurd that the slaves, with all their ignorance, saw plainly enough it could not succeed. That affair, in its philosophy, cor responds with the many attempts, related in history, at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a' people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution.. Orsini's attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown's attempt at Harper's Ferry, were, in their philosophy, pre. cisely the same. The eagerness to cast blame on old England in the one case, and on New

England in the other, does not disprove the sameness of the two things.

And how much would it avail you, if you could, by the use of John Brown, Helper's Book, and the like, break up the Republican organization ? Human action can be modified to some extent, but human nature cannot be changed. There is a judgment and a feeling against slavery in this nation, which cast at least a million and a half of votes. You cannot destroy that judgment and feeling-that sentiment---by breaking up the political organization which rallies around it. You can scarcely scatter and disperse an army which has been formed into order in the face of your heaviest fire ; but if you could, how much would you gain by forcing the sentiment which created it out of the peaceful channel of the ballot-box into some other channel? What would that other chan. nel probably be? Would the number of John Browns be lessened or enlarged by the opera. tion ?

But you will break up the Union rather than submit to a denial of your constitutional rights.

That has a somewhat reckless sound ; but it would be palliated, if not fully justified, were we proposing, by the mere force of numbers, to deprive you of some right plainly written down in the Constitution. But we are proposing no such thing. When you make these declarations you have a specific and well-understood allusion to an assumed constitutional right of yours to take slaves into the Federal Territories, and to hold them there as property. But no such right is specially written in the Constitution. That in. strument is literally silent about any such right. We, on the contrary, deny that such a right has any existence in the Constitution, even by implication.

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the government, unless you

be allowed to construe and force the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.

This, plainly stated, is your language. Per haps you will say the Supreme Court has decided the disputed constitutional question in your favor. Not quite so. But waiving the lawyer's distinction between dictum and de cision, the court has decided the question for you in a sort of way. The court has substantially said, it is your constitutional right to take slaves into the Federal Territories, and to hold them there as property. : When I say the decision was made in a sort of way, I mean it was made in a divided court, by a bare majority of the judges, and they not quite agreeing with one another in the reasons for making it ; that it is so made as that its avowed supporters disi agree with one another about its meaning, and that it was mainly based upon a mistaken statement of fact-the statement in the opinion that "the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution."

An inspection of the Constitution will show that the right of property in a slave is not." dis tinctly and expressly affirmed " in it. Bear in mind, the judges do not pledge their judicial opinion that such right is impliedly affirmed in the Constitution ; but they pledge their verac ity that it is “distinctly and expressly' affirmed there' distinctly," that is, not mingled with anything else-- " expressly," that is, in words meaning just that, without the aid of any infer ence, and susceptible of no other meaning.

If they had only pledged their judicial opin. ion that such right is affirmed in the instrument by implication, it would be open to others to show that neither the word • slave" por • slavery” is to be found in the Constitution, nor the word “ property' even, in any connec. Gion with language alluding to the thing slave, or slavery; and that wherever in that instrument the slave is alluded to, he is called a 14 person ;" and wherever his master's legal right in relation to him is alluded to, it is spoken of as " service or labor which may be due'-aş & debt payable in service or labor. Also it would be open to show, by contemporaneous history, that this mode of alluding to slaves and slavery, instead of speaking of them, was em, ployed on purpose to exclude from the Consti. tution the idea that there could be property in pan. «II! ! ! ; di Gruia

[ocr errors]

.גי 44, .!

To show all this is easy and certain.

When this obvious mistake of the judges shall be brought to their notice, is it not reasonable to expect that they will withdraw the mistaken statement, and reconsider the conclusion based

upon it ?

And then it is to be remembered that " our fathers who framed the government under which we live". the men who made the Con. stitution-decided this same constitutional ques tion in our favor long ago : decided it without division among themselves when making the decision; without division among themselves about the meaning of it after it was made, and, so far as any evidence is left, without basing it upon any mistaken statement of facts.

Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this government unless such a court decision as yours is shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action ? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union ; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer !"

To be sure, what the robber demanded of me my money-was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it ; but it was no more may

« AnteriorContinuar »